Thomas Anshutz


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Painter. A longtime principal in the Philadelphia art community, he made his reputation with dignified, carefully constructed figural compositions indebted to his mentor Thomas Eakins. His best-known painting, The Ironworkers' Noontime (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1880) depicts industrial laborers outside a factory during a midday break. Notable for its unromanticized working-class subject, it delineates men in varied poses relaxing in strong sunlight. Although the image reveals shared experience, the workers' apparent isolation from each other suggests also the alienation common to modern industrialism. During the 1890s Anshutz's work took on greater lightness and immediacy, especially in a large number of accomplished watercolors. As a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he also served as director, he guided numerous younger artists who went on to distinguished careers. Thomas Pollock Anshutz was born in Newport, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Throughout his life, he periodically visited the vicinity of Wheeling, West Virginia. He had relatives there and lived in the area before heading to New York to study art. After a year or two in Brooklyn, he began his studies at the National Academy of Design in 1873. Dissatisfied, he moved to Philadelphia two years later. There he soon began to work with Eakins, who remained among his teachers when he enrolled in the newly reopened Pennsylvania Academy in 1876. Two years later he became Eakins's teaching assistant, initiating a career of more than thirty years on the academy's instructional staff. In 1892 Anshutz left for a year in Europe. While residing most of the time in Paris, he worked at the Académie Julian. Although Adolphe-William Bouguereau numbered among his instructors, impressionism more directly affected his development. Subsequently, working often in watercolor or pastel as well as oil, he rendered many atmospheric landscapes. Around the turn of the century, Anshutz painted a number of bright-hued, stylized watercolors and a few similar oils anticipating modernist developments. As private experiments, these little affected the public reputation he concurrently cultivated with portraits and figure studies, often picturing attractive women at leisure. In 1899 with Philadelphia impressionist Hugh Henry Breckenridge (1870–1937), he founded a summer art school. Located at first in Darby, it later moved to another Philadelphia suburb, Fort Washington, where Anshutz died. In 1910 ill health had forced him to resign from the academy staff, and the following summer's visit to Europe in search of treatment failed to cure him.

Subjects: Art.

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