Autumn, as depicted by Patty Thum

Misty Bright Autumn by Patty Thum, circa 1900 (1963.9.1)

Misty Bright Autumn by Patty Thum, circa 1900 (1963.9.1)

Welcome to autumn!  This beautiful scene by Louisville artist Patty Thum inspires fall feelings in me.  My former colleague Robin Wallace shared the following information on Thum at one of our "Women in the Filson's Special Collections" lectures:

Louisville’s Patty Prather Thum was first tutored in drawing by her mother.  As many female artists did, she learned at home. Thum later studied art at Vassar College under Henry Van Ingen, at the New York Art Students League with William Merritt Chase, and with Henry Mowbray and Lemuel Wiles.  She returned to Louisville in 1870 where she maintained a studio for 35 years.

Growing up, Thum often visited her grandparents’ rural home and she developed a love of nature, particularly flowers.   Thum’s paintings reflect the idealized portrayal of nature seen in the works of other landscape artists of this time, such as Harvey Joiner, Joseph Krementz, and Carl Brenner.

Flowers and landscapes became her favorite subjects, and she executed them with a tenderness and feeling that is very poignant.  While these paintings embody the Victorian idealization of stereotypical women’s subjects, Thum certainly was capable of creating more complex compositions and beautifully rendered figure-paintings, and her entire body of work was well regarded.  Her initial showing was at the 1883 art galleries of the Southern Exposition, which was, as Estill Curtis Pennington mentions in his book Lessons in Likeness, “…the most serious showing of art held in the Ohio River Valley since the end of the Civil War.”  But it is for her sentimental floral works that she is best remembered.

In addition to her still-lives and wood burnings, she illustrated books and magazines, and several of her paintings were reproduced as lithographs which sold successfully throughout the country.  Thum also taught art in Louisville, was the President of the Louisville Art League, and was the art critic for The Louisville Herald until her retirement in 1925.  Thum undeniably bequeathed a legacy of innovation and inspiration for future female artists.

Jennie Cole

Jennie Cole is the Manager of Collection Access at The Filson. She has a MLIS with a specialization in Archives from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in History from the University of Louisville. Jennie's research interests in the Filson's collections include women's history, Camp Zachary Taylor, and Speed family of Louisville.

2 comments on “Autumn, as depicted by Patty Thum

  1. Robina Schroeder

    I have inherited a large number of drawings, water colors and reproductions of water color greeting cards by Patty Thum, in addition to a number of landscape oil paintings and several rose paintings (my brother has other flower paintings in oil). We also have several journals kept by the Millers on their farm in the late 1800s – one entitled “Weather Report” which documents the devastating tornado, and who lost fencing, livestock, etc.

    My husband and I would like to have someone take a look at these items, to see if they might be valuable to add to a collection. Let me know if you might be interested in taking a look. (I am a cousin on my mothers side of the family – Fox, Doll, Perry are family names.

    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Robin, Curator of Collections Jim Holmberg will be in touch with you via email. Thanks for thinking of us!


Leave Comment