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Anne Wilson Goldthwaite

 (1869 - 1944)
Anne Wilson Goldthwaite was active/lived in Alabama, New York / France.  Anne Goldthwaite is known for southern landscape, genre and portrait painting, etching.

Anne Wilson Goldthwaite

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Anne Wilson Goldthwaite
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Anne Goldthwaite was a painter in early modernist style of southern subjects, especially Black Americans. Her work has been described as expressive rather than abstract, and because of her many etchings* and watercolors of southern life, many of them sympathetic to post-slave culture Negroes, she is also regarded one of the South's most important regionalist artists. Shortly before she died, she completed two murals of southern genre for post offices at Atmore and Tuskegee, Alabama.

Goldthwaite was from a prominent Montgomery, Alabama family. Her parents died when she was young, and she was raised by an aunt. Goldthwaite was presented to society as a debutante and "seemed destined for the life of a Southern belle", (Rubinstein) until her life took a different turn when the man to whom she was engaged was killed in a duel.

To get her mind on something else, she followed an uncle's suggestion and went to New York to pursue her interest in art.  She enrolled at the National Academy of Design* and studied etching with Charles Mielatz and painting with Walter Shirlaw, who remained her principal influence. In 1906 she went to Paris where she came under the influence of modernists Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. Her adoption of modernism led her to join with other students to found the Academie Moderne with teachers Charles Guerin and Othon Friesz.

Reinforcing her commitment to non-traditional painting was her association with Gertrude Stein, one of the most influential avant-garde* persons in Paris of that pre-war time. Goldthwaite first met her when she was sketching at the Luxembourg Gardens. To the young artist Stein "looked something like an immense dark brown egg. She wore, wrapped tight around her, a brown kimona-like garment and a large flat black hat, and stood on feet covered with wide sandals." (Rubinstein). However, when she saw Stein's apartment and her extensive art collection of contemporary painters, she realized this was not an ordinary woman.

Just before World War I, Goldthwaite returned to New York and exhibited her work at the 1913 New York Armory Show*, which introduced European modernism to America. At this exhibition, she met Katherine Dreier, who became her life-long friend. Goldthwaite began teaching at the Art Students League*, where she was a very popular teacher until her death in 1944. She was also an advocate of women's rights and equal rights for ethnic minorities.

In 1915, she established her life's working pattern, which was living nine months in New York and then spending her summers with family in Montgomery, Alabama.

She died in New York City. Knoedler's Gallery held a posthumous exhibition of her work in 1944 as did the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in 1977.

Charlotte Rubinstein, American Women Artists, 178-179
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who's Who in American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary


Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery

Anne Goldthwaite once wrote of her natal state:

I had the good fortune to be born in Alabama where live the finest people in the world---the noblest, the best-mannered and the wittiest. I go back every year and I find this still true. (1)

Throughout her career, Anne depicted the people and the life of the Alabama that she loved so well.

Born in Montgomery on June 28, 1874, Anne was one of three daughters of Richard W. Goldthwaite, who had served the Confederate cause as an artillery captain. Her father traced his family tree back to Thomas Goldthwaite who had settled in Boston in the eighteenth century and whose portrait had been painted by Copley.  Anne's grandfather George Goldthwaite was a United States Senator from Alabama and, in fact, the first southern Senator to return to Washington after Reconstruction.

Anne spent most of her childhood and adolescence in Dallas, Texas, where her father tried to make a living in the lean years of Reconstruction. She would later write that in addition to the wildlife such as tarantulas and prairie dogs it was the bright colors of Texas' wild flowers that constituted her most vivid early memories. (2) After the death of both her parents Anne returned with her sisters to Montgomery where they were cared for by various family members.

Her bachelor uncle, Henry Goldthwaite, a New York cotton broker, on a visit to Alabama was very impressed by Anne's talent for drawing and painting and offered to support her for eight to ten years if she would return with him to New York to study. Anne did so, was lodged in a boarding house for young ladies, and entered the National Academy of Design where she studied painting with Walter Shirlaw and etching with Frank Mielatz.

In 1906 she embarked for Paris. Impressionism was on its way out, and Fauvism and Cubism were just arriving on the scene. Nijinsky and Isadora Duncan were dancing in the French capital, and Anne often saw their performances as well as those of Diaghilev's Ballet Ruse. She was taken into the art circle that was presided over by Gertrude Stein, whom she described as "a large woman resembling an immense dark brown egg," (3) and she counted Picasso and Matisse among her friends. She later wrote, "Fate gave me several years in Paris at the most exciting time: during the great reconstruction from art to modern art."(4)

She found it difficult to find the right teacher, spending most of her first year in Paris drifting about from one studio to another. She finally joined with a small group of young artists who met at 86 Notre Dame des Champs. Charles Guerin, a disciple of Cezanne, would drop in periodically to critique their work. The group held an exhibition each spring, and they came to call themselves the Academie Moderne. The First World War forced Anne's return to the United States, but she would visit Paris again in the thirties.

Anne settled in New York rather than Montgomery. She painted portraits, though she did not seek portrait commissions; rather, her subjects were friends and family members lovingly rendered, such as her sister Lucy, the painter Rico Lebrun, and her first New York dealer Josph Brummer, to name a few. Anne was best known for her vignettes of poor, rural blacks in her home state. Negroes plowing with mules, shoeing their mules and their children at play filled her canvases and etchings from the second decade of the twentieth century right up until the year she died. Such subjects won her two mural commissions for post offices from the W.P.A. one in Tuskegee, and the other in Bay Minette, Alabama.

Anne Goldthwaite had a long career as a teacher. For twenty-three years she taught at the Art Students League of New York, one of the nation's leading art schools. She also found time to actively participate in several artists' organizations. She was a member of the New York Society of Women Artists and served as its President in 1937 and 1938. Anne herself once remarked of life in New York, "We do not play here as in Paris, but work hard and sternly." (5)

Nearly every summer Anne returned to Montgomery. "I don't see how it can be true that one ever outgrows one's early home. Even after Paris, I find Montgomery as charming and interesting as ever. Nowhere can I imagine a more beautiful and dignified social life than we have down there. I feel honored to go back and have them take me in as one of them." (6)

There she painted the subjects which gave her a lasting place in the history of American art. Holger Cahill wrote, "No one could record better than she the blazing summer sunlight on the rich vegetation of the black belt, Negroes playing or working in the fields, the look of a market square filled with mule teams and cotton wagons."(7) These subjects brought Anne's work to the attention of Edith Halpert, whose Downtown Gallery in New York was showing the work of such pioneers in American modernism as John Marin, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartly. Between 1929 and 1934 Halpert gave Anne several one-woman shows.

Anne Goldthwaite died in New York on January 29, 1944, after a long illness. Her funeral service was held in Montgomery, and it was there, in the city she always called "home" that she was buried.

1. Unidentified clipping, Anne Goldthwaite papers, Archives of American Art, microfilm reel no. D359.

2. Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, Anne Goldthwaite, A Catalogue Raisonne of the Graphic Work (Montgomery: Montgomery Museum of Art, 1982), p. 19.

3. "Full Dress Memorial for Anne Goldthwaite," Art Digest, October 19, 1944, p. 10.

4. Unidentified Clipping, Anne Goldthwaite papers, Archives of American Art, microfilm reel no. D 359.

5. Ibid.

6. "Miss Anne Goldthwaite, Strangely Enough, Prefers Work which Takes no Time", The Evening Sun, November 18, 1915.

7. Holger Cahill, "Memorial Exhibition, Anne Goldthwaite, "(New York: Knoedler Galleries, 1944).

Cynthia Seibels; Copyright 1990 Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.

Biography from The Johnson Collection

In a 1934 radio interview, Anne Goldthwaite characterized the status of women artists by noting that “the best praise that women have been able to command until now is to have it said that she paints like a man. But that women have a valid place as women artists is both obvious and logical. . . . We want to speak to . . . an audience that asks simply—is it good, not—was it done by a woman.” The Alabama painter had come of age during an era when intrepid American women increasingly contested gendered barriers in the art world as well as in the wider socio-political realm. Her participation in these struggles belied her conservative Southern upbringing in Montgomery as the daughter of a former Confederate officer. After her parents’ untimely deaths, Goldthwaite was placed in the care of an aunt who later admonished her charge that “it is better to marry badly than not at all.” Goldthwaite recalled: “I was brought up to believe that matrimony was the desired end of a woman’s life and a woman’s career.” But her life and career would be different. At eighteen, Goldthwaite “came out” in society as a debutante, marking her eligibility as a bride. Having failed to find a husband by twenty-three, however, her family suggested she move to New York to pursue her interest in art.

Goldthwaite arrived in New York around 1898 and, for the next six years, studied at the National Academy of Design. In 1906, she moved to Paris, where she co-founded the Académie Moderne and lived at the American Girl’s Club. A fellow club member introduced her to Gertrude Stein, through whom Goldthwaite was exposed to the works of modernists like Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. Under their influence, the academicism of her earlier work loosened, and her brushwork grew more fluid. Yet Goldthwaite never fully abandoned representation; while she exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show alongside abstract modernist works, her own paintings remained in the realist mode.

On the eve of World War I, Goldthwaite returned to New York, where she would live for the rest of her life. She quickly gained a reputation for portraiture—and for activism. Goldthwaite fought adamantly for the political rights of women, producing the design for a suffrage banner unfurled at a 1916 New York Giants baseball game, and co-organizing the 1915 Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Women Artists for the Benefit of the Woman Suffrage Campaign.

In 1922, Goldthwaite became an instructor at the Art Students League, a position she would hold for over twenty years. She also continued to teach during summer sojourns in Alabama, offering advice to students at the Dixie Art Colony. Established near Montgomery by painter John Kelly Fitzpatrick in 1933, this enclave is where Goldthwaite may have met Frances Greene Nix, who is known to have studied with both Goldthwaite and Fitzpatrick. Like Goldthwaite, Nix was a native of Montgomery and a practicing portraitist, and she later served as director of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Goldthwaite’s likeness of her shows a softly striking woman seated in a space reminiscent of Mary Cassatt’s Impressionist domestic interiors. Nix’s decorous attire, jewelry, and what appears to be a mirror or a watch dangling from her left hand are akin to the feminine accouterments frequently featured in Cassatt’s vignettes, while the limited palette, visibly fluid brushstrokes, and slightly indeterminate spatial relations also evince Goldthwaite’s absorption of Post-Impressionist painterly strategies.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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About  Anne Wilson Goldthwaite

Born:  1869 - Montgomery, Alabama
Died:   1944 - New York City
Known for:  southern landscape, genre and portrait painting, etching