Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger (Jan.15, 1879-Jan. 14 1961) was an English actor and artist. While today best remembered for his role as the villainous Dr. Pretorius in James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Thesiger originally trained to be an artist at the Slade and received instruction from William Henry Tonks. He made the acquaintance of John Singer Sargent, who made a pastel portrait of Thesiger in 1911. William Ranken (d. 1943), another Slade graduate and professional artist in Sargent's circle, was a lifelong friend as well as the brother of Thesiger's wife, Janette Ranken. In Secrets of a Woman's Heart, (1984) her biography of Thesiger's friend, the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett, Hilary Spurling attests that the marriage was founded on the couple's "mutual adoration of Willie (Ranken)," (93) rather than any passion they felt for one another.
Thesiger painted, worked embroidery, tatting and other forms of needlework, and designed and constructed clothing even after he became a professional actor in 1909. As a visual artist, he is generally remembered for his embroidery. He wrote a book titled Adventures in Embroidery (1941; reprinted 1947), and, after being wounded in France during the First World War, he returned to England and established the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry, in which wounded men were trained and employed as embroiderers, under the authority of Friends of the Elderly.
Though his permanent residence was in London, Thesiger occasionally worked onstage or in films in the United States, and brought his embroidery and paintbox with him. A photograph taken on the set of Bride of Frankenstein seems to confirm this; it shows Thesiger seated before an easel, on which is propped what appears to be a watercolor landscape.
Information provided by Rebecca Conn, a master's student writing a thesis about Ernest Thesiger at the University of Kansas.