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Abbott Handerson Thayer

Known primarily for his paintings of ethereal angelic figures and idealized young women, Abbott Handerson Thayer also painted landscapes and delicate floral still lifes. Thayer was born in 1849 in Boston to William Henry Thayer and Ellen Handerson Thayer, a prominent New England family. At an early age, Thayer showed a keen interest in nature and wildlife, especially birds, and his first artistic efforts were watercolor sketches of birds and other animals. In 1864 he enrolled at the Chauncey Hall School, and in addition to his academic studies, he continued to explore his interest in depicting the natural world through the tutelage of Henry Morse, a jeweler and amateur painter of animals. Upon graduation, Thayer declared his intention to pursue a career as a painter and consequently moved to Brooklyn in 1867.

In New York, Thayer rented a studio and continued to paint animal portraits, while also studying first at the Brooklyn Art School and then the National Academy of Design. In 1872, Thayer met Kate Bloede, and they were married on June 5, 1875. After the wedding, the young couple traveled to Europe, where they were to remain for four years. Thayer spent time studying with Henri Lehman and Jean Léon Gérôme, but despite this highly academic training, Thayer's own painting style remained loose and impressionistic. In 1879, Thayer and his family returned home from Europe, and he opened a studio in Brooklyn. He received a steady stream of commissions, however he also spent a considerable amount of time painting members of his own family. He was a devoted father, and his preoccupation with caring for his children increased when his wife became ill in 1888 and eventually died in 1891.

In 1901, he moved to Dublin, New Hampshire where he joined a colony of artists and lived at the foot of Mount Monadnock. He maintained a lively correspondence with friends including Samuel Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and Charles Lang Freer. He married a long-time friend, Emma Beach, and built a family compound where he painted portraits of friends, meditative views of the mountain, and a series of angels that seemed very human and were symbolic of his family and his need to protect people, animals, and places he loved. He became a strong advocate of conservation and founded the Thayer Fund, which paid for the establishment of bird sanctuaries throughout the east coast region. His last years were devoted to painting Mount Monadnock in a variety of personalities, and his style became increasingly abstract. He died on May 29 in Dublin, and his family scattered his ashes on Mount Monadnock.