Anthony Johannes Thieme was born in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam in 1888. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam, at the Royal Academy at the Hague, as an apprentice to George Hoecker, a well known stage designer in Düsseldorf, Germany, and to Antonio Mancini, an Italian Impressionist. After completing his studies, Thieme journeyed throughout Europe and South America, working in stage design to support his travels. Thieme first came to the United States in 1917 and initially worked as a set designer and book illustrator first in New York and later in Boston.
By the late 1920s, Thieme had married and moved from Boston to Cape Ann in Rockport, Massachusetts, an emerging art colony. Like the other Rockport artists, his style was influenced by Impressionism, with special attention paid to the effects of light, but also by the Dutch tradition of seascape painting. Throughout his career, Thieme favored painting en plein air, or outside, because it allowed him to better capture the atmosphere’s fleeting effects. He has been referred to as the “Master of Light and Shadow.”
Thieme’s paintings were often met with critical acclaim and were displayed at galleries in New York, London, and Paris. He also established the Thieme School of Art at Cape Ann in 1929 and taught classes out of his studio until 1943. Tragedy struck in 1946 when his studio burned to the ground, destroying much of the work he had produced over thirty years. Devastated by this loss, Thieme left Massachusetts in search of new adventures and inspirations. He traveled south to Charleston, South Carolina and was greatly inspired by the dense tropical foliage and the warm coastal light. He spent two months in Charleston, painting prolifically, before continuing on to Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America. Until his mysterious death in 1954, Thieme spent his summers in Rockport and the winter months based in St. Augustine, Florida.
Throughout his career, Thieme exhibited his work widely and was active in numerous art associations and clubs. He participated in exhibitions across the country including ones at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the National Arts Club, the American Watercolor Society, the Salmagundi Club, the Boston Art Club, the Art Alliance of America, and the Rockport Art Association.