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Monday, 3 August 2009

Anthony Thieme

A Cape Ann Retreat Oil on Canvas, Circa 1929.

By Alexandra A. Jopp

Anthony Thieme was one of America’s most successful painters, with a long and prolific career that spanned the first half of the twentieth century. His story is a splendid illustration of the United States as the “land of opportunity.” While growing up in The Netherlands, he showed artistic leanings and a love of color. His passion, however, was not supported by his parents. They did not think art was a serious career choice, and they sent their son off to naval school. That did not last long, though, and as soon as he turned 14, Thieme enrolled in Holland’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Afterward, he studied for two years at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Yet even after this training, Thieme still could not convince his parents to support his desire to become an artist. So, at the age of 17, he left home. After several years traveling around Europe, Thieme, barely able to make ends meet, crossed the Atlantic, a trip that would lead to him becoming one of the most distinguished painters in the history of American art.

Born Antonius Johannes Thieme in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1888, the artist is much more remembered in the United States than in his native country. His reputation as a leading landscape and marine painter and as a premier figure of the Rockport School has lasted to this day.

Rockport Afternoon.
Oil on Canvas, Circa 1929.

Thieme’s career began in Germany, where he was employed as a stage designer while he developed his painting skills. After three years, he traveled to Switzerland, then Italy, where he worked as a stage designer in Turin. In 1909, he enrolled in the Scuola di Belle Arti, where he studied for a year before moving on to Naples. He spent two years sketching and painting in Naples, then traveled to London before taking the proceeds from the sale of some of his sketches and booking passage to New York.

Thieme settled in New York City in 1917 and began painting Broadway backdrops. Though the pay was good, the work was unfulfilling for the young and ambitious artist. He soon moved to Boston, where he kept a studio in Copley Square in which he produced easel paintings and illustrations.

In 1929, Thieme married Lillian Beckett and bought a cottage in Rockport, Mass. He set up a studio in the area, which had become a summer resort destination for nationally-known artists. According to a 1961 account by John Kieran, “There are studios on almost every street, and every day in summer you see outdoor groups of pupils working under different masters at picturesque points along the roadside.” 1 Thieme opened the Thieme Summer School of Art in Rockport in 1929 and served as its director until 1943.

Rockport Waterfront
Oil on Canvas, Circa 1935. 

Thieme’s favorite subjects were the historic fishing ports on the north shore of Massachusetts. His admiration for the gleaming colors and the lyric quality of the marine subjects dominated his style. “The open air is my studio,” Thieme said. “A good landscape painter must paint fast to catch the light of any hour. Unless you know what to put in, what to leave out, the result is a mess.”

Thieme is one of only a handful of American marine and landscape painters working in the first half of the twentieth century whose art occupies the walls of museums and private collections. He was honored with numerous awards during his career, including: the Delano Prize from the New York Watercolor Club, the Athenaeum Prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1930; the Lucien Powell Citizen Jury Prize from the Los Angeles Museum in 1931, the Gold Medal for the Best Painting in New England from the Contemporary Artists Association in 1944 and a prestigious award for the best marine painting at the Pan-American Art Show in Miami in 1949. He exhibited around the world, at the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and venues in Belgium, Holland and France.

Main Street, Rockport. 
Today, Thieme’s art is included in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the City of New Haven (Conn.) Collection, the Montclair Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thieme died in 1954 in Greenwich, Conn.

For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at


  1. One of the most popular artists associated with the Rockport School, Anthony Thieme was born in Rotterdam, Holland. His early training in fine art was taken under George Hacker at the Royal Acadamie of Fine Arts in the Hague. He also studied at the German Academy and later under Italian masters Garlobini and Mancini. Emigrating to America in the 1920's, Thieme first settled in New York City. Later, while in search of picturesque locales for his paintings, he would discover and become enamored with the area around Cape Ann, Massachusetts. He soon established a studio in the village of Rockport where he lived and painted for the remainder of his life, creating a prestigious output of distinctive paintings. Widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of the Rockport School, Thieme's work was exhibited in Belgium, France, Holland and throughout the United States, including the National Academy (1930-34) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1930). His paintings won awards at almost every venue where they were shown.

  2. Anthony Thieme papers, 1909-1972
    1.0 linear ft.

    Biographical data; correspondence; writings and notes; photographs; financial records; printed material; and a printing block.

    Biographical notes; letters from Thieme in Europe, to his wife Becky (Lillian Beckett Thieme), regarding family matters, and to business associates regarding the sale and reproduction of his paintings and his inventions, including a movie projector and a device for repairing torpedo damage to battleships; letters from painter Hanny Bouman to "Aunt Becky," and letters to Lillian afterhis death regarding the sale and exhibition of his paintings. Notes concerning watercolor painting are included with lists of Thieme paintings owned by Mrs. Sally Fenelon Young, 3 address books, and lists of household chores. Two typescripts are entitled "Must Sixty-five Always be the Deadline?" and "Majority Wins".

    Also included are shipment and exhibition records, 1937-1954, include price lists, receipts, and invoices; reprint receipts, 1940-1957, correspondence and receipts, 1955-1961, from the J. J. Gillespie Company, and miscellaneous receipts, 1935-1944. Printed material includes clippings; a press release; exhibition catalogs, 1928-1953; brochures from Thieme's New Summer School of Art; a blueprint of a section of Rockport, Massachusetts; and picture postcards. Photographs, undated and 1932, are of Thieme, his family, and classes at the Thieme School of Art in Rockport. The collection also includes a half-tone printing block of a work of art.

    Donated 1985 by Jane Goodwin, whose mother was Mrs. Thieme's friend. She obtained the papers from Harriet Chamberlain, who purchased the Thieme home in Florida and found the papers there.

  3. I was intrigued to read all this. We have a painting of his. Where should we look to see what it's worth, please?

  4. I too was intrigued to learn we own an original from such a renown painter. It would be interesting to learn the value as I have searched many websites and have not seen the picture we have with is a signed original on canvas, with a gold name plate: "Fishing Boats".