After Thayer

After Thayer

Abbott Handerson Thayer was a 19th Century American artist whose works included portraits, landscapes, animals and angels.

I love Thayer’s paintings and this one of a pot of roses is no exception.  It was quite hard to do, he has such a loose style.  The original is about 20 * 30 inches compared to my 10 * 12.

Thayer's Roses
Roses After Thayer, Acrylic on Canvas Sheet 10 * 12 inches

Thayer The Artist

Abbott Handerson Thayer was born on August 12th 1849 in Boston Massachusetts.

His early years were spent in rural New Hampshire, a setting which enabled him to get close to nature – hunting, bird watching and painting the wildlife he saw around him. Whilst still at school he came under the tutelage of Henry Morse, an amateur artist. His college years were spent at the Brooklyn Art School and the National Academy of Design where he received more formal art instructions. He also spent 4 years, from 1875, at the Parisian Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Thayer married Kate Bloede in the 1870s, they had five children two of whom sadly died in the early 1880s. More sadness was to follow. His wife, who became emotionally weak following the death of her father, was placed in an asylum. Her health declined and she died in 1891. Not long after he married an old friend, Emma Beach, and they made their home in New Hampshire with his three remaining children.

Whilst he painted a number of different subjects and made a good name for himself as a portrait artist, Thayer is best known for his angels. These idealised depictions of young women, dressed in white with feathered wings, were meant to represent timeless beauty and feminine virtue.

Abbott Thayer is sometimes called the father of camouflage. He wrote papers on the topic of countershading (a type of camouflage where an animals upper side is darker than its bottom side) and other types of camouflage including disruptive patterning. His interest extended to military camouflage, he made proposals to both the British and American during World War I and one such proposal, for the use of countershading in ship camouflage was approved by the Americans.

He continued painting into his later years, one of his favourite subjects at that time being Mount Monadnock, a view of which he had from his home. He suffered from manic depression and as, he aged, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and a number of strokes.

Thayer died, aged 71, on 29th May 1921.

Famous Paintings

Here are some of his works:

A Virgin
An oil on canvas painting modelled by Thayer’s three children Gladys, Mary and Gerald. He started this piece not long after the children’s mother died in 1891. He painted Mary, the eldest in the centre, as a Greek ‘victory’ figure. The clouds behind her give the impression of wings. Her pose is after a famous Hellenistic sculpture in the Louvre, the Nike of Samothrace which is also known as the Winged Victory. This painting is held at the Freer Gallery of Art.

A Virgin

An oil on canvas of a pot of roses. Currently held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, this beautiful painting was created in 1890.


The model for this striking painting was Thayer’s daughter Mary, aged eleven. Oil on canvas, he manipulated the surface with brooms, scrapers and even his fingers to achieve the textured effect. Painted in 1887 it is held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Stevenson Memorial
This is a 1903 Oil on Canvas currently held at the Smithsonian Museum. An inscription on the painting ‘VAEA’ is the name of the Samoan mountain where Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist and travel writer, is buried. The angel seated upon Stevenson’s grave is meant to represent a light against oblivion, Stevenson will always be remembered through his works.

Stevenson Memorial

Red Flamingoes
This oil on wood study was for a book on camouflage that he published with his son Gerald in 1909. The book was titled Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. Thayer was of the opinion that colours in the animal kingdom, no matter how bright and flamboyant, were used to camouflage the animal and protect them from predators at critical times of the day. Theodore Roosevelt was extremely critical of Thayer’s theory and there was much debate between the two men. This is another piece held at the Smithsonian Museum.

Red Flamingoes

Old Masters

If you’ve enjoyed this post you might like these ones too:
John Singer Sargent
Paul Gauguin
Edouard Manet
Paul Cezanne
René Magritte
Claude Monet

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