Abbott Handerson Thayer - Male Wood Duck in a Forest Pool - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - oil on canvas - ca. 1905-1909 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Male Wood Duck in a Forest Pool - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - oil on canvas - ca. 1905-1909 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum


Abbott Anderson Thayer - Brother and Sister - oil on canvas - 1889 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum
This work portrays Abbott Thayer’s children one year after their mother’s hospitalization for “melancholia,” or severe depression. Thayer wrote to a friend that her physical deterioration would not be so horrible “were her soul visible” (Anderson, 1982). Thayer captured the sadness and worry of this difficult period in Mary’s heavy-lidded, watery eyes and in Gerald’s searching expression. They look like a modern-day Madonna and Child.

Abbott Anderson Thayer - Brother and Sister - oil on canvas - 1889 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

This work portrays Abbott Thayer’s children one year after their mother’s hospitalization for “melancholia,” or severe depression. Thayer wrote to a friend that her physical deterioration would not be so horrible “were her soul visible” (Anderson, 1982). Thayer captured the sadness and worry of this difficult period in Mary’s heavy-lidded, watery eyes and in Gerald’s searching expression. They look like a modern-day Madonna and Child.


Abbott Handerson Thayer - Flower Studies - oil on canvas - ca. 1886 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Flower Studies - oil on canvas - ca. 1886 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum


Abbott Handerson Thayer - Sphynx Caterpillar - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - watercolor - n.d. - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Sphynx Caterpillar - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - watercolor - n.d. - via Smithsonian American Art Museum


Abbott Handerson Thayer - Lunar Caterpillar - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - watercolor - n.d. - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Lunar Caterpillar - Study for Book: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1909 - watercolor - n.d. - via Smithsonian American Art Museum


Abbott Handerson Thayer - Townsend Bradley Martin - oil on canvas - 1919 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum
Townsend Bradley Martin was a grandson of Andrew Carnegie and heir to a steel fortune. In this portrait sketch of the young boy in a garden, Townsend’s shirt nearly disappears in the foliage. Abbott Thayer was fascinated with natural history, and he developed a theory of natural camouflage that is obvious in his paintings of animals but often creeps into his portraits as well.

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Townsend Bradley Martin - oil on canvas - 1919 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

Townsend Bradley Martin was a grandson of Andrew Carnegie and heir to a steel fortune. In this portrait sketch of the young boy in a garden, Townsend’s shirt nearly disappears in the foliage. Abbott Thayer was fascinated with natural history, and he developed a theory of natural camouflage that is obvious in his paintings of animals but often creeps into his portraits as well.


Abbott Handerson Thayer - Minerva in a Chariot - oil on canvas - ca. 1894 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum
In 1894, Abbott Thayer won a commission to create a large mosaic panel of the goddess Minerva for the Library of Congress, and he painted this oil sketch before executing the final version in glass. He was to receive $4000 for the completed project, but engineers and architects at the library quickly grew frustrated with Thayer’s unwillingness to comply with their instructions. After years of argument, the commission was given to another prominent muralist, Elihu Vedder. His Minerva now presides over the landing of what was once the library’s main staircase.

Abbott Handerson Thayer - Minerva in a Chariot - oil on canvas - ca. 1894 - via Smithsonian American Art Museum

In 1894, Abbott Thayer won a commission to create a large mosaic panel of the goddess Minerva for the Library of Congress, and he painted this oil sketch before executing the final version in glass. He was to receive $4000 for the completed project, but engineers and architects at the library quickly grew frustrated with Thayer’s unwillingness to comply with their instructions. After years of argument, the commission was given to another prominent muralist, Elihu Vedder. His Minerva now presides over the landing of what was once the library’s main staircase.