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Thomas Anshutz

(1851 - 1912)

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Biography

Anshutz spent the summer of 1894 at the New Jersey shore, where he produced a number of watercolors incorporating sailboats and the scenery at Holly Beach, near the mouth of the Delaware River. Though a highly sought-after painter of portraits and figural works, Anshutz shifted his focus after observing firsthand the work being done by the French impressionists on a year-long trip to Paris in 1892-1893.  Increasingly interested in the depiction of outdoor light, Anshutz began painting more extensively in watercolor, producing works like Near Cape May that evoke the shimmering atmosphere of summertime along the Atlantic coast.

In this idyllic view, horizontal bands of sand and sky reflect the intense summer light, casting the sailboat and red boathouse in sharp relief.  As is typical of the artist’s Holly Beach watercolors, no action occurs, allowing the viewer to fill the scene with his or her own summertime memories and associations.  

Remarking on the artist’s turn toward a more impressionistic style, scholar Donelson Hoopes observed that “Anshutz reveals himself as a true poet of light and atmosphere, especially in the watercolors done while on holiday in New Jersey.”   Although prominent public and private collectors embraced Anschutz’s summery watercolors, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy set the artist’s resurgence in motion when she created “virtually a stampede” by purchasing two Anshutz watercolors for the White House in 1963.