Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) was an American artist, naturalist, and teacher. He is best known for his work as a painter, particularly for his portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes. Thayer was also a significant figure in the field of natural history illustration and is renowned for his studies of birds.
Thayer was born on August 12, 1849, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He displayed artistic talent from a young age and received formal training at the Brooklyn Art School and the National Academy of Design in New York. Thayer traveled to Europe in the late 1870s to study the works of old masters, including Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Thayer gained recognition for his portraiture, capturing the likenesses of prominent figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Mark Twain. His portraits often showcased a delicate and refined style, characterized by soft colors and an ethereal quality.
Beyond his skill as a painter, Thayer had a keen interest in natural history. He developed a particular fascination with the study of birds and their protective coloration. Thayer conducted extensive research on the subject, which led to his influential book "Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom," published in 1909. In the book, Thayer explored the concept of camouflage in nature and its application to military and industrial purposes.
During his career, Thayer faced both acclaim and controversy. His work was praised for its technical proficiency and artistic vision, but he also encountered criticism for his unconventional theories on animal coloration. Nevertheless, his contributions to the fields of art and natural history continue to be recognized and studied.
Abbott Handerson Thayer passed away on May 29, 1921, in New Hampshire, leaving behind a legacy of artistic excellence and scientific inquiry. His artworks can be found in numerous museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.