The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: Thomas Anshutz

8 Apr

Thomas Anshutz, The Farmer and His Son at Harvesting (1879)

Note: click on any image to enlarge

I’m continuing my focus on the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia — the historic polestar of modern American realist art.  In the prior post I featured the great Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), who led the Pennsylvania Academy from roughly 1876 to 1886.  In this post I’m featuring the work of Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851-1912), who succeeded Eakins as principal instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy upon Eakins’s dismissal in 1886.

Thomas Anshutz, Self Portrait (c. 1909)

Anshutz was Eakins’s artistic protege, and though he is less famous in his own right than Eakins, Anshutz was arguably the more influential teacher.  As I noted in my blog post of January 18, 2012 (see Art Out The Wazoo archives) Anshutz’s list of students reads like a “Who’s Who” of 20th Century American oil painting, including such notables as George Luks, Charles Demuth, John French Sloan, Charles Sheeler, Everett Shinn, John Marin, William Glackens and Robert Henri.

Thomas Anshutz, The Iron Workers’ Noontime (1880)

Anshutz continued in Eakins’s vein of powerful realist portraiture and landscape.  He made a particularly strong impact on Henri, Sloan, Glackens and Shinn — each of whom was a founding member of the Ashcan School.  They’re all great favorites of mine and have been featured in prior Art Out The Wazoo posts.  They each owe a great debt to Thomas Anshutz.  In fact I’d go so far as to say they owe the same sort of debt to Anshutz that the French Impressionists owe to Corot.

Thomas Anshutz, A Rose (1907)

Thomas Anshutz, Figurepiece (1909)

I have a strong personal affinity for Anshutz and his work — especially his lesser-known — but terrific — plein air landscapes.  He’s one of a handful of painters I consciously try to emulate.  In my blog post of January 28, 2012 (see Art Out The Wazoo archives) I featured one of my own paintings, a scene from Gethsemani Abbey.  I  specifically drew upon the plein air methods of Anshutz in that painting.  I just love the way Anshutz paints — from the simple, straightforward composition; to the loose, commanding brush strokes; to the beautiful, subtle color choices.

Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Landscape With Grey Sky (date unknown)

Thomas Anshutz, Landscape With Tree and Building (c. 1885)

In my book Anshutz’s work comes pretty close to the Platonic ideal of painting in general and plein air landscape in particular.  It’s no wonder he made such an impression on students, especially the best and the brightest. Precisely because he was so influential as a teacher, and because so many of his students went on to greatness, Anshutz has been slightly overshadowed in modern times, at least with the general public.  But make no mistake: Anshutz is one of the all time greats of American art.

2 Responses to “The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: Thomas Anshutz”

  1. Mark S Smith October 3, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    Hello Bob!
    I stumbled upon your blog searching for more information about Thomas Anshutz after viewing “A Rose” at the Met while seeing the Sargent show two days ago (today is Oct. 3, 2015). I am a huge fan of Sargent and decided to get out of Chicago to see the show before it closes. I am also a big fan of the style of painting by Eakins, Cecelia Beaux, The Ash Can School (Sloan, Henri…) and many others. Thanks for the informative blog and I will study up. I am a former fine artist turned advertising guy that wishes to return to painting. BTW, nice job with your many works! “A Rose” really blew me away (The Sargent show REALLY blew me away as he is perhaps the best – learning the lessons of Velazquez and his master C. Duran so well – and on to his famous career). Anyway, it would be great to meet you if possible. I am from southern Illinois originally, close to Terra Haute, Newton, IL. I live in the Ravenswood area of Chicago. 773-332-7999. Mark Smith. Cheers!

    • bobbalouie October 3, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

      Thanks Mark! To me the Pennsylvania Academy is the mother ship of uniquely American art. A lot of the credit goes to Eakins, I think. He was very focused on developing a sort of art peculiar to the Americas.

      I actually grew up In Evansville and went through Terre Haute on a regular basis when I was in college at DePauw University. I’m planning to organize a second group outing to the Art Institute prints and drawings room, I will put you on the list if you’re interested. We just meet up at the museum, do the tour and usually lunch afterward. You can really get up close and personal with drawings by really great artists. Last time we saw drawings by Monet, George Bellows, William Glackens and Reginald Marsh (to name a few). It was really cool.

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