Thieme-Becker is a German biographical dictionary of artists.

Page 460 of volume 26


The dictionary was begun under the editorship of Ulrich Thieme (1865–1922)[1] (volumes one to fifteen) and Felix Becker (1864–1928)[2] (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).[3][4]

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.[3][4]


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.[4] The supplement is referred to as Vollmer, and the two works together as Thieme-Becker-Vollmer.

Scope and reputationEdit

The first thirty-seven volumes contain 148,180 biographies written with the help of around 400 specialists worldwide.[3][4] The six supplementary volumes contain a further 47,229 biographies written almost entirely by Hans Vollmer.[3][4] The attention Thieme-Becker-Vollmer paid to non-Western artists, including those from Asia and the Islamic world, made it a "pioneering enterprise."[5] 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"[6] and the most widely consulted reference of its kind, even in English-speaking countries.[7][8] The bibliographic sections are considered "outstanding" and "invaluable."[9]

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).[10] The publication of a six-volume index as late as 1996–1997 was a measure of the work's enduring usefulness.[11]

Allgemeines KünstlerlexikonEdit

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).[3] Early progress was slow (three volumes 1983–1989), due partly to the project's isolation in East Germany.[3] The pace picked up in 1991, when it switched to "electronic data processing" and a new publisher, K.G. Saur Verlag of Munich.[3] Since 2006, AKL has been published by Walter de Gruyter of Berlin, and by 2014 it had reached Volume 83: Lalix–Leibowitz.[12] 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.[13]


  1. ^ "Thieme, Ulrich," Dictionary of Art Historians. Accessed 18 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Becker, Felix," Dictionary of Art Historians. Accessed 18 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "The Project: From Thieme-Becker to the Artists’ Database," Archived 2011-08-09 at the Wayback Machine Walter de Gruyter GmbH.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e 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.
  5. ^ Martin Warnke, "Alles über alle," Die Zeit, 29 January 1993. Accessed 18 June 2014. German: "Pionierunternehmen."
  6. ^ Achim Timmermann, "Thieme-Becker," The Oxford Companion to Western Art Online, Oxford Art Online. Accessed 18 June 2014 (subscription required).
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Lee Sorensen, "Bibliography of art," Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Accessed 18 June 2014 (subscription required).
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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).
  12. ^ Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Accessed 17 June 2014.
  13. ^ 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).