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Thomas Anshutz (aka Thomas Pollack Anshutz)

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Thomas Anshutz
(Newport, Kentucky, 1851 - 1912, Pennsylvania)

For many years, Thomas Anshutz was primarily recognized as an important teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where his students were such early twentieth-century American painters as Robert Henri and John Sloan. Recent scholarship, however, has focused on Anshutz's own oeuvre and how his works reflect an open-minded acceptance of advanced styles of painting that was unusual for an academically-trained art professor at that time.

Anshutz was born on October 5, 1851 in Newport, Kentucky, and was raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1871, he moved from Wheeling to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived with an aunt and uncle while he pursued art studies at the National Academy of Design between 1873 and 1875. He moved to Philadelphia in the fall of 1875 and studied with Thomas Eakins, later enrolling in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where Eakins was Professor of Drawing and Painting. Anshutz was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy at the School and was named a full-time faculty member in the fall of 1881. 1

Despite his important position as an art instructor, Anshutz did not produce or exhibit extensively between 1883 and 1892 and he apparently had little appreciation of his own ability. Remarkably, after so much time as an instructor himself, he decided to return to art school in 1892, this time in Paris at the Académie Julian. 2 His experience there introduced him to the most advanced French painting styles like Neo -Iimpressionism and upon his eventual return to the United States and the Pennsylvania Academy in 1893 he did produce some paintings influenced by the work of the Fauves. His subjects were primarily landscapes, portraits and some genre scenes. With the painter Hugh Breckenridge he founded the Darby School of Painting, a summer school in Darby, Pennsylvania. He returned to Europe for the final time in 1911, primarly for treatment of the heart disease which eventually took his life on June 16, 1912.

1 Anshutz's life and career are summarized in Randall C. Griffin's Thomas Anshutz: Artist and Teacher, Seattle: The University of Washington Press and Heckscher Museum, 1994. See particularly chapter one for biographical data.
2 Griffin, pp. 55-56.

excerpted from American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, cat. no. 30, p. 92.

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