Thieme-Becker is a German biographical dictionary of artists.
The dictionary was begun under the editorship of Ulrich Thieme (1865–1922) (volumes one to fifteen) and Felix Becker (1864–1928) (volumes one to four). It was completed under the editorship of Frederick Charles Willis (b. 1883) (volumes fourteen and fifteen) and Hans Vollmer (1878–1969) (volumes sixteen to thirty-seven).
Its full title is Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (English: General Dictionary of Artists from Antiquity to the Present), and it was published in thirty-seven volumes between 1907 and 1950, the first four volumes by Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann of Leipzig, and the remainder by Verlag E.A. Seemann, also of Leipzig.
Thieme-Becker was immediately supplemented by Vollmer's Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts (English: General Dictionary of Artists of the 20th Century), published in six volumes by E.A. Seemann between 1953 and 1962. The supplement is referred to as Vollmer, and the two works together as Thieme-Becker-Vollmer.
Scope and reputation
The first thirty-seven volumes contain 148,180 biographies written with the help of around 400 specialists worldwide. The six supplementary volumes contain a further 47,229 biographies written almost entirely by Hans Vollmer. The attention Thieme-Becker-Vollmer paid to non-Western artists, including those from Asia and the Islamic world, made it a "pioneering enterprise." It is still valued for its coverage of otherwise little-known artists, architects, and designers, and as a summa of art scholarship in the first half of the twentieth century. It "remains the most authoritative dictionary of artists" and the most widely consulted reference of its kind, even in English-speaking countries. The bibliographic sections are considered "outstanding" and "invaluable."
Thieme-Becker-Vollmer has rarely been out of print. Anastatic and photomechanical facsimiles of the original volumes were published from the 1940s to the 1980s, and the entire forty-three-volume set has been reissued in trade paperback (1992), in a student edition (1999), and on CD-ROM (2008). The publication of a six-volume index as late as 1996–1997 was a measure of the work's enduring usefulness.
A complete overhaul of Thieme-Becker-Vollmer began in 1969 under the title Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, or AKL (English: literally General Dictionary of Artists: The Artists of All Times and Nations, but marketed as Artists of the World). Early progress was slow (three volumes 1983–1989), due partly to the project's isolation in East Germany. The pace picked up in 1991, when it switched to "electronic data processing" and a new publisher, K.G. Saur Verlag of Munich. Since 2006, AKL has been published by Walter de Gruyter of Berlin, and by 2014 it had reached Volume 83: Lalix–Leibowitz. There is also an online edition, Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Internationale Künstlerdatenbank, or AKL-IKD, which by 2014 included 500,000 biographies (containing information on one million artists); it is continuously updated and about 3,500 new entries are added annually.
- "Thieme, Ulrich," Dictionary of Art Historians. Accessed 18 June 2014.
- "Becker, Felix," Dictionary of Art Historians. Accessed 18 June 2014.
- "The Project: From Thieme-Becker to the Artists’ Database," Walter de Gruyter GmbH. The original link is dead. The page is archived at Archive Today and Wayback Machine. Accessed 18 June 2014.
- Heinz Ladendorf, "Das Allgemeine Lexikon der bildenden Künstler Thieme-Becker-Vollmer," in Magdalena George (ed.), Festschrift Hans Vollmer (Leipzig: E.A. Seemann Verlag, 1957), pp. 1–16.
- Martin Warnke, "Alles über alle," Die Zeit, 29 January 1993. Accessed 18 June 2014. German: "Pionierunternehmen."
- Achim Timmermann, "Thieme-Becker," The Oxford Companion to Western Art Online, Oxford Art Online. Accessed 18 June 2014 (subscription required).
- A 1982-83 study found that Thieme-Becker was one of the three "favorite bibliographic tools for art historians in colleges and museums." Deirdre Corcoran Stam, "How art historians look for information," Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, vol. 3, no. 4 (Winter 1984), p. 118.
- A 1984 survey found that "Thieme-Becker was the most frequently cited source" used by institutions cataloguing art works. Christine Hennessey, "The status of name authority control in the cataloging of original art objects," Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 1986), p. 5.
- Lee Sorensen, "Bibliography of art," Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Accessed 18 June 2014 (subscription required).
- Trade paperback—Munich: Deutschen Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), 1992, ISBN 3-423-05908-7 and ISBN 3-423-05907-9. Student edition—Leipzig: Verlag E.A. Seemann, 1999, ISBN 3-363-00729-9 and ISBN 978-3-86502-127-4. CD-ROM—Leipzig: Verlag E.A. Seemann, 2008, third edition 2012, ISBN 978-3-86502-177-9. The publisher claims that the CD-ROM contains 250,000 biographies, which is 50,000 too many. They may be counting artists discussed only in the biographies of others, of which there are indeed many thousands.
- Thieme-Becker-Vollmer Gesamtregister: Register zum Allgemeinen Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart und zum Allgemeinen Lexikon der bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts (München: K.G. Saur / Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1996–1997), ISBN 3-598-23640-9. Part one is a country index (three volumes, 1996) and part two an index of artistic specialisations (three volumes, 1997).
- Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Accessed 17 June 2014.
- Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Internationale Künstlerdatenbank, Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Accessed 17 June 2014. De Gruyter also publishes a compilation CD-ROM under this name containing Thieme-Becker-Vollmer, biographies to date from the print edition of AKL, and other material. The thirty-first edition appeared in 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-40974-5 (German interface) and ISBN 978-3-598-40976-9 (English interface).