Antonius Thieme embraced America, changed his name to Anthony and became an American citizen in 1936.
Thieme was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1888. According to notes and letters to and from his wife, Becky, which are part of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, Thieme began drawing as early as age 8. “He drew everything in sight,” she wrote, “including famous Dutch master drawings.”
Thieme’s family was not happy about his wanting to be an artist, and sent him to a naval academy in the north of Holland, to try to discourage him from pursuing a career in art. The plan backfired, and Thieme wound up painting the sea and the ships in the harbor, rather than working on them. Although he didn’t last long at the naval academy, the experience led to an invitation from his uncle, the captain of a sailing ship, to sail to America. So, in 1903, at age fifteen, Thieme sailed to New York and got his first glimpse of the country that he would one day call home.
When he got back to Holland, he studied art at the Royal Academy of Art at the Hague and the at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany. Besides traditional painting and drawing classes, Thieme took classes in basic design, theatrical backdrops and architectural rendering, which have him the skills to earn a living. After traveling, and painting, through Italy and France, Thieme returned to America in 1917, where he worked as a set designer in New York and Boston, painting every chance he got. In 1928 Thieme had a very successful show at the Grace Horn Gallery in Boston. He gave up his work in the theater to pursue a full-time career as a painter.
Anthony Thieme’s Influence in America
Anthony Thieme settled in Rockport, Massachusetts in 1929. He and his wife, Becky, lived in their Rockport cottage until Thieme’s death in 1954.
Always painting en plein air, Thieme made the occasional trip to Europe, where his paintings were shown at exhibits in Paris, Brussels and the Hague. He also traveled and painted throughout New England and in the South. He was particularly fond of St. Augustine, where he vacationed often and joined the St. Augustine Art Colony in 1950, along other noted artists, who were courted by the city.
He opened the Thieme Galleries, in Palm Beach, which exhibited his work as well as the works of other local artists. Thieme’s masterful use of color, his ability to create serene scenes that captured a gentleness in the American landscape, makes him a national treasure. Thieme was often referred to as “the master of light” because of his talent at capturing the play of light in the vistas that he painted.
The Work of Anthony Thieme at the Surovek Gallery
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Estill Curtos Pennington, Martha R. Severns. Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from The Johnson Collection. Univ of South Carolina Press, Dec 16, 2015.