|Abbot Handerson Thayer, Winged Figure, 1889, The Art Institute of Chicago|
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, 1887, Smithsonian American Art Museum|
Gift of John Gellatly Mary, the artist's daughter, posed.
After moving to Washington, I found that Thayer is represented well in the nation's capital. Angel of 1887 is a very young figure, and Thayer's daughter Mary served as the model when she was 11. She's frontal, symmetric, quite pale and white. She may or may not be in flight. Thayer is probably the premier American painter of angels, a Fra Angelico or a Luca della Robbia in paint. He gives them an idealized beauty and paints in a pristine Neoclassical style, as well as Europeans did.
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, A Winged Figure, 1904-1913, The Freer Gallery of Art,|
Smithsonian Institution Gift of Charles Lang Freer. The model is the
artist's daughter, Gladys
Thayer's preference for painting winged figures was not entirely religious. His interest in naturalism started as a 6-year old living near Keene, New Hampshire, when he began the avid study of birds and nature. However, his obsession with painting winged figures, angels and innocent children may have something to do with the fact that two of his children died unexpectedly in the early 1880s. That so many of his figures gained wings may represent hopes he had for coming to terms with loss.
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Virgin, 1892-93, |
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Gift of Charles Lang Freer
(The artist's children, Gladys, Mary, Gerald)
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Roses, 1890, oil on canvas 22 1/4 x 31 3/8 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly|
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Mount Monadnock, 1911, 22 3/16 x. 24 3/16 "|
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Monadnock No. 2, 1912, |
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Charles Lang Freer
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Winter Dawn on Monadnock, 1918, The Freer Gallery of Art,|
Smithsonian Institution Gift of Charles Lang Freer.
|Abbott Handerson Thayer, Stevenson Memorial, 1903, 81-7/16 x 16 1/8 "|
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC Gift of John Gellatly
Thayer memorialized Stevenson, but what about his salvation? In 2008, the Smithsonian did a documentary film about him, Invisible: Abbott Thayer and the Art of Camouflage. Apparently his ideas about camouflage are more readily accepted now than they were in his time. Doesn't his reputation as a painter deserve wide recognition, too? While keeping a foothold here on earth, his winged figures suggest that humans have the potential to transcend the hard life and fly above our limitations.