Background: Thomas Anshutz was born in Newport, Kentucky on October 5, 1851. He grew up in Newport and Wheeling, West Virginia. He was an American painter and teacher. Co-founder of The Darby School and leader at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Education: His early art instruction took place at the National Academy of Design in the early 1870s, where he studied under Lemuel Wilmarth. In 1875 he moved to Philadelphia and took a class taught by Thomas Eakins at the Philadlphia Sketch Club, a class which would solidify a close relationship and influence between Eakins and Anshutz.
Achievements: In 1876 Anshutz and Thomas Eakins joined the Pennslyvania Academy of Fine Arts. Eakins became Chief Demonstrator of Anatomy while Anshutz continued as his student, and the student of Christian Schussele. In 1878 Anshutz became Eakins assistant, eventually replacing Eakins as Chief Demonstrator when Eakins became Professor of Drawing and Painting. In 1880 he completed his first major work, Ironworker’s Noontime, while still a student.
Ironworker’s Noontime, Anshutz’s most well known painting, depicts several workers on their break in the yard of a foundry. Painted near Wheeling, West Virginia, it is conceived in a naturalistic style similar to that of Eakins, although Eakins never painted industrial subjects. The piece was exhibited at the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 1881 and compared to Eakin’s work by art critics. Art historian Randall C. Griffin has written of it: “One of the first American paintings to depict the bleakness of factory life, The Ironworkers’ Noontime appears to be a clear indictment of industrialization. Its brutal candor startled critics, who saw it as unexpectedly confrontational—a chilling industrial snapshot not the least picturesque or sublime.” It is now in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Around 1880 Eakins became involved in photography, incorporating it into his classes and artwork. Anshutz and other artists at the Academy started to make use of the camera, posing models and students to take photos and making prints for study. Anshutz participated in Eakins The Naked Series, creating photographs featuring nude models in seven pre-defined standing poses.
The Anshutz family regularly vacationed in Holly Beach, New Jersey which served as a creative place for the painter. There he experimented with watercolors, brightcolor palette, and simple compositions. He continued to participate at Darby until 1910. He served as a member of the National Academy of Design and president of the Philadelphia Sketch Club