Sharing a common country of birth (Holland) and a love of color and boldness in their paintings, Vincent Van Gogh and Anthony Thieme both endured emotional turmoil and both ended their lives the same way.
Striking out on his own at the age of seventeen, Johannes Thieme (he later changed his first name to Anthony), became a fearless and adventurous traveler, linguist, and avocational opera singer, who initially found employment as a scenic backdrop painter in New York City and then in Boston. Along his artistic way he studied oil painting, watercolor, printmaking, and drawing in Dusseldorf, Naples, the Hague, and Paris.
Anthony Thieme and his wife, the former Lillian Beckett, met at the wedding of Richard Recchia, and the noted sculptor suggested the tip of Cape Ann, the quarry town of Rockport, as an ideal spot for the en plein air painter to set up his easel. Thieme did so for many summers, and he never strayed very far from his favorite subject, the angular, red-painted, lobster buoy-covered ‘Motif #1.’ It is estimated that Thieme painted about 400 canvases of the now famous fishing shack (rebuilt after a terrific winter storm), usually with hunchbacked fishermen standing at the wharf’s edge. The fishing boats, white-painted cottages, and church steeples of the picturesque village were a continual inspiration to Thieme, and gave an Old World, laid-back satisfaction to the prolific artist who often could be quite curt and outspoken. However, his admiring students were dismayed, when due to health issues, he was forced to close the Thieme Summer School of Art, which had beeen under his direction from 1929 to 1943.
Anthony Thieme received favorable criticism and artistic awards during his career, including two in 1930: the Delano Prize from the New York Watercolor Club, and the Athenaeum Prize at the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts; the Lucien Powell Citizen Jury Prize from the Los Angeles Museum (1931); the Gold Medal for the Best Painting in New England by the Contemporary Artists Association (1944); and an award for the best marine painting at the Pan-American Art Show in Miami (1949). Anthony and ‘Becky’ wintered in St. Augustine, and after he became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1935, they visited Mexico and Guatemala where the hot, primary colors of the two Spanish- language countries influenced his palette.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Institute in Chicago, and museums in London and Brussels have Thieme’s works in their collections, and he is a much sought after artist to this day.