Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Art Review - "Self Portrait" by Abbott Handerson Thayer - Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Something a bit different for today's #MuseumTourTuesday. This is a self portrait by Abbott Handerson Thayer at the National Portrait Gallery.

"Self Portrait" • Abbott Handerson Thayer • 1920 • Oil on Plywood Panel • 29" x 22"

Most of you are probably familiar with Thayer's paintings of angels and roses, which are absolutely beautiful. What is not widely known is that Thayer was far more than the idealized reality depicted in his work. His first wife passed away in 1891 after being confined to an asylum. Thayer himself was described as eccentric, often utilizing unorthodox methods, such as adding dirt into his paint mixes, or using a broom instead of a brush to loosen up his paintings.

Thayer's paintings of women as angels were an effort to combat what he saw as the degradation of women in art and imagery that emphasized their sexuality rather than their moral attributes. Adding wings stressed the transcendent qualities he saw in the female subject.

Thayer was an environmentalist, and his studies heavily influenced his paintings. He even wrote one of the first books on camouflage within the natural world. Even though he was vigorously attacked by Theodore Roosevelt for his writings, his findings are still widely accepted to this day.

Suffering from bipolar disorder, the artist often suffered from panic attacks, nervous exhaustion and suicidal thoughts. This haunting portrait captures the depth of the artist's personality.

Painting photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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