Thursday, August 29, 2013


Abbott Handerson Thayer
Source Nelson and Henry C. White research material
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

A virgin

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) was born in Boston to Dr. William Henry Thayer and Ellen Handerson Thayer. After his birth his family moved to Woodstock, Vermont, and in 1855 settled in Keene, New Hampshire.
As a child Thayer developed a love of nature that was encouraged by his close family, which included three sisters, Ellen, Margaret, and Susan. At the age of fifteen he was sent to the Chauncy Hall School in Boston, and while there he met Henry D. Morse, an amateur animal painter. Under Morse's instruction Abbott developed his skill in painting birds and other wildlife and began painting animal portraits on commission.
In 1867 Thayer moved to Brooklyn, New York and attended the Brooklyn Academy of Design where he studied under J. B. Whittaker for two years. In 1868 he began showing his work at the National Academy of Design and enrolled there in 1870, studying under Lemuel Wilmarth.
He met many emerging artists during this period, including his future first wife, Kate Bloede and his close friend, Daniel Chester French. Thayer became part of progressive art circles, showing his work at the newly formed Society of American Artists, while continuing to develop his skill as an animal and landscape painter.
Thayer and Kate Bloede were married in 1875. They moved to Paris and he studied at the cole des Beaux-Arts, first under Henri Lehmann, and then with Jean-Léon Gérome. While in Europe he befriended fellow artists Everton Sainsbury, Thomas Millie Dow, George de Forest Brush, and Dwight Tryon.
His daughter Mary was born in 1876 and his son William Henry in 1878. The family returned to America in 1879 and settled in his parent's home in Brooklyn, where he changed his focus to portraits. After the tragic deaths of William Henry in 1880 and of their second son, Ralph Waldo, in 1881, the family led a migratory existence living in various parts of New England. In 1881 while living in Nantucket they met Emmeline (Emma) Beach (1850-1924) who would become close friends with Abbott and Kate and would be known as "Addie" to the family. In 1883 their son Gerald was born and in 1886 their daughter Gladys was born. In 1887 Thayer settled his family in Keene, New Hampshire, and began teaching a small group of students. Around this time his wife began suffering from severe depression and went to a sanatorium in 1888. She died in 1891 and that fall Thayer married Emma Beach who had helped to care for him and his children during his wife's illness.

Blue Ribbon

Landscape at Fontainebleau Forest

The Favorite Kitten
Images from

He and his second wife spent their remaining years in rural New Hampshire, living and working productively with the three remaining Thayer children, Mary, Gerald and Gladys. Throughout this latter part of his life, among Thayer’s Dublin neighbors was George de Forest Brush, with whom (when they were not quarreling) he collaborated on matters pertaining to camouflage. By his own admission, Thayer often suffered from a condition that today is called bipolar disorder. In his letters, he described it as “the Abbott pendulum,” by which his emotions precariously swung back and forth between the two extremes of (in his words) “all-wellity” and “sick disgust.” This condition apparently worsened as the controversy grew about his camouflage findings (most notably when they were denounced by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt). As he aged, he increasingly suffered from panic attacks (which he called “fright-fits”), nervous exhaustion, and suicidal thoughts, so much so that he was no longer allowed to go out in his boat alone on Dublin Pond. At age 72, Thayer was disabled by a series of strokes, and died quietly at home on May 29, 1921.
Thayer cut a singular figure. A smallish man, 5 feet 7 inches tall, lean and muscular, he moved with a quick vitality. His narrow, bony face, with its mustache and aquiline nose, was topped by a broad forehead permanently furrowed by frown lines from concentration. He began the winter in long woolen underwear, and as the weather warmed, he gradually cut off the legs till by summer he had shorts. Winter and summer he wore knickers, knee-high leather boots and a paint-splotched Norfolk jacket.
His Thoreauesque communion with nature permeated the entire household. Wild animals—owls, rabbits, woodchucks, weasels—roamed the house at will. There were pet prairie dogs named Napoleon and Josephine, a red, blue and yellow macaw, and spider monkeys that regularly escaped from their cages. In the living room stood a stuffed peacock, probably used as a model for a painting in the protective coloration book. A stuffed downy woodpecker, which in certain lights disappeared into its artfully arranged background of black winter twigs and branches, held court in the little library.
Promoting to ornithologists his theory of protective coloration, Thayer met a young man who immediately was adopted as an honorary son. His name was Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and though he would become a famous painter of birds, he began as an affectionate disciple. Both men were fascinated with birds. They regularly exchanged skins and Fuertes joined Thayer on birding expeditions. He spent a summer and two winters with the family, joining in their high intellectual and spiritual arguments—the exact interpretation of the Icelandic Sagas—and their rushes to the dictionary or relief globe to settle questions of etymology and geography. On regular walks in the woods, Fuertes summoned birds by whistling their calls—like Thayer, who stood on the summit of Mount Monadnock in the twilight and attracted great horned owls by making a sucking sound on the back of his hand. One owl, it is said, perched on top of his bald head. 

My Children

The Sisters
Current Loc Brooklyn Museum
Source Google Art project

It is difficult to categorize Thayer simply and conclusively as an artist. He was often described in first person accounts as eccentric and mercurial, and there is a parallel contradictory mixture of academic tradition, spontaneity and improvisation in his artistic methods. For example, he is largely known as a painter of “ideal figures,” in which he portrayed women as embodiments of virtue, adorned in flowing white tunics and equipped with feathered angel’s wings. At the same time, he did this using methods that were surprisingly unorthodox, such as purposely mixing dirt into the paint, or (in one instance at least) using a broom instead of a brush to lessen the sense of rigidity in a newly finished, still-wet painting.
He survived with the help of his patrons, among them the industrialist Charles Lang Freer. Some of his finest works are in the collections of the Freer Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Academy of Design, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago. Thayer was also resourceful in his teaching, which he saw as a useful, inseparable part of his own studio work. Among his devoted apprentices were Rockwell Kent, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Richard Meryman, Barry Faulkner (Thayer's cousin), Alexander and William James (the sons of Harvard philosopher William James), and Thayer's own son and daughter, Gerald and Gladys.
In a letter to Thomas Wilmer Dewing (c. 1917, in the collection of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution), Thayer reveals that his method was to work on a new painting for only three days. If he worked longer on it, he said, he would either accomplish nothing or would ruin it. So on the fourth day, he would instead take a break, getting as far from the work as possible, but meanwhile instruct each student to make an exact copy of that three-day painting. Then, when he did return to his studio, he would (in his words) "pounce on a copy and give it a three-day shove again". As a result, he would end up with alternate versions of the same painting, in substantially different finished states.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Newport Harbor


Spring Morning

The Ledges

Gloucester Harbor
All images from

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to German immigrant parents, Twachtman found his first employment in his hometown at Breneman Brothers, a design firm that produced window shades, where his father also worked. At age fifteen, he enrolled as a part-time student in the School of Design at the Ohio Mechanics' Institute.
In 1871 he transferred to the McMicken School of Design where his classmates included Kenyon Cox, Joseph DeCamp, Robert Blum, Lewis Henry Meakin, and William Baer, all of whom achieved artistic prominence in their later careers. Frank Duveneck, however, was the most important contact of Twachtman's Cincinnati years. Twachtman had known Duveneck through mutual ties in the Cincinnati German community, but the younger Twachtman came under the slightly older artist's influence when he joined the evening class Duveneck taught at the Mechanics' Institute in 1874-75 on his return from four years of study at the Munich Royal Academy.

Connecticut Shore, Winter

My Summer Studio
Current Loc The Phillips Collection
From commons

Duveneck invited Twachtman to paint in the studio he shared with Henry Farny and the sculptor Frank Dengler, and in 1875 when Duveneck returned to Munich, Twachtman accompanied him. Enrolling in the Munich Royal Academy in the Fall of 1875, Twachtman studied under Ludwig von Loefftz, a painter of realist genre scenes. In the summer of 1876, Twachtman visited the small Bavarian town of Polling, which had attracted a large community of artists including many American painters. American artists Charles Ulrich and Walter Shirlaw also spent time in Polling in the summer of 1876.

Arques-la-Bataille, 1884
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

After a brief return to America, Twachtman studied from 1883 to 1885 at the Académie Julian in Paris, and his paintings dramatically shifted towards a soft, gray and green tonalist style. During this time he painted what some art historians consider to be his greatest masterpieces, including Arques-la-Bataille, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Springtime, in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The White Bridge
Current Loc Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The Cascade

Horseneck Falls

In addition to his oil paintings, Twachtman continued to create etchings as well as drawings in pastel. Twachtman taught painting at the Art Students League from 1889 until his death in 1902. Twachtman was close friends with Julian Alden Weir and the two often painted together and both also had close associations with the Danish-born painter Emil Carlsen.
In 1893, Twachtman received a silver medal in painting at the Columbian Exposition; the same year, he also exhibited his work with Claude Monet at a New York gallery. In Connecticut his painting style shifted again, this time to a highly personal impressionist technique. He painted many landscapes of his farm and garden in Greenwich, often depicting the snow-covered landscape. He executed dozens of paintings of a small waterfall on his property, capturing the scene in different seasons and times of day.
Late in life Twachtman visited Gloucester, Massachusetts, another center of artistic activity in the late 19th century, and produced a series of vibrant scenes that anticipated a more modernist style yet to gain prominence in American art.
Twachtman died suddenly in Gloucester of a brain aneurysm, aged 49. Today, his works are in many museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Monday, August 19, 2013


Out of the Night

Cuneo was born in London, the son of Cyrus Cincinato Cuneo and Nell Marion Tenison, artists who met while studying with Whistler in Paris. Cyrus Cuneo's elder brother Rinaldo Cuneo was also an acclaimed painter in San Francisco, as was his youngest brother Egisto Cuneo. Terence Cuneo studied at Sutton Valence School, Chelsea Polytechnic and the Slade School of Art, before working as an illustrator for magazines, books and periodicals.
In 1936 he started working in oils, continuing with his illustration work. During World War II he served as a sapper but also worked for the War Artists Advisory Committee, providing illustrations of aircraft factories and wartime events. He served and became good friends with fellow artist Cyril Parfitt.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Big Boy on Sherman Hill

The Union Pacific Big Boy, the largest successful engine ever created, was not only a technological achievement and trophy piece, rather a necessity for the Union Pacific Railroad. Built for one purpose and one purpose alone: to pull large tonnage over the 1.55% continuous grade up Sherman Hill, based in the Wasatch mountain region, just east of Ogden Utah. Before Big Boy, a helper service was required. This is where a smaller engine is coupled to a mainline freight to ‘help’ it over the hill. The engine would then return to the bottom of the hill and await the next through train. Not only was this a slow process, but rather expensive. A new engine was needed, one that could pull a train up the hill unassisted.
The UP Class 4000 (4-8-8-4) articulated Big Boy was the answer. The American Locomotive Company (Alco) Locomotive Works was commissioned to build the engine. Starting in 1941, twenty engines were built: 4000 to 4019, then again in 1944 five more were delivered - 4020 to 4024.
At 6.00pm on 5th September 1941, the first Big Boy, 4000, strode through the east end of the UP’s Omaha yard. After testing and trials the 4000 was immediately put into active service. Mainly used during the peak season from July through November, the 4000s were used to take the massively heavy ‘red balls’ over the Hill. The ‘red balls’ are also known as PFEs, or Pacific Fruit Express Reefers, basically produce trains. Due to the heavy nature of these cars when fully loaded, prior to Big Boy, it wasn’t unusual to see 2, 3 or even 4 engines struggling up Sherman Hill. Now, just one Big Boy and one engine crew was needed, saving the Union Pacific a lot of money. Big Boy served as king of the hill for twenty-one years, travelling an astonishing one million miles each (4016 had the lowest mileage at 1,016,124 and 4006 the highest at 1,064,625). They accumulated more service than most, fighting their way relentlessly up the grades every day. They reigned supreme over Sherman Hill until the summer of 1957. Normally, it was not uncommon to see anywhere from three to six Big Boys travelling from Cheyenne to Laramie every day, all pulling separate trains.

Forgan's Trench, Pontruet

'Golden Arrow'

Tyre Production

'Flying Cheltenham'
Images from

After the war, Cuneo was commissioned to produce a series of works illustrating railways, bridges and locomotives. A significant point in his career was his appointment as official artist for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, which brought his name before the public worldwide. He received more commissions from industry, which included depicting manufacturing, mineral extraction and road building, including the M1. He was most famous for his passion for engineering subjects, particularly locomotives and the railway as a whole. But in fact Cuneo painted over a wide range, from big game in Africa to landscapes. Further success was achieved in his regimental commissions, battle scenes and incidents as well as portraits.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
In 1934, Cuneo married Catherine Monro and from 1940 they lived in Ember Lane, East Molesey. He had two daughters, Carole and Linda, and three grandchildren, Andrew, Melanie, and Cindy. He was a well-known figure in the neighbourhood, contributing to its cultural life and bringing many famous figures to the area, including Prince Philip. He was President of the Molesey Arts Society, and the Thames Valley Art Society.

Invasion scene

Production of tanks
Images from

Many of his works include a small mouse (sometimes lifelike, sometimes cartoon-like), his trademark after 1956. They can be difficult to detect, and many people enjoy scouring his paintings to find one. Even some of his portraits of the famous contain a mouse. Cuneo was awarded the OBE and was a CVO. A 1.5 times life size bronze memorial statue of Cuneo, by Philip Jackson, stands in the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London. It was commissioned by the Terence Cuneo Memorial Trust (established March 2002) to create a permanent memorial to the artist, together with an annual prize at the Slade School of Art, given by the Trust. In tribute to Cuneo's trademark, the statue includes a hidden mouse peering from under a book by the artist's feet, and another carved into the statue's plinth near the ground.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
His work has been used in a variety of ways, from book jackets and model railway catalogues to posters and jigsaws and even Royal Mail postage stamps. His work can also be found in many museums and galleries, including the Guildhall Art Gallery, Lloyds of London, the National Railway Museum, the Royal Institution and many Officers' Messes around the country. Terence Cuneo was granted Freedom of the City of London in 1993. Sadly Terence died in London on 3 January 1996. However, his paintings live on in so many places around the globe, a permanent reminder of such a wonderfully talented man.
Terence Cuneo was always searching for new subjects away from the studio. He first made his mark as a racing artist in the 1920s, with his "Pitwork" series depicting Le Mans and other racing circuits. This was the training ground for future subject matter - the excitement of speed, busyness and movement which would come into his later works of equestrian subjects. His technique and skill developed when he became a war artist in the Second World War - another field for him to conquer - and later with his many travels to such places as Ethiopia and the Far East.
An exhibition of his work soon after the war demonstrated his inquisitive eye. The many military works that came out of the war and later are to be seen in the various messes around Britain: the Royal Artillery and the Rifle Brigade among others. There is always a place for an artist who observes, records and illustrates. The camera can lie, so can an artist to himself, but never to his public. Terence Cuneo was a public man; it shows in his work, the time he gave to many committees and in his universal friendship.
(Part of Obituary for Terence Cuneo, Tim Coates, The Independent, 8 January 1996)

Friday, August 16, 2013


Landskap med kor vid vattendrag

Boskapen flyttas
Images from

Norwegian fjord landscape

Anders Monsen gained greater popularity than most of his contemporaries. He took his art education under Hans Gude in Dusseldorf, and as an independent painter quickly built up renown as a landscape and animal painter. He combined the two genres for a striking artwork, where landscape and livestock united in a National Romantic expression or a pastoral ideal. It can perhaps be emphasized that Askevold became a victim of his own popularity. Demand was great, and he would gladly paint a variety of the most highly prized motifs, this resulted in his production loosing some of its freshness and taking on an air of routine. Askevold traveled frequently, and his contact with the international milieu also opened his eyes to the new French outdoor painting. In Askevold’s later paintings we see a freer brush stroke, less detail and a fresher color. The pictorial aspect adopted a greater importance in his work, but in this case did not stretch to a new kind of painting. He remained faithful to the National Romantic motif throughout his life.

Village by a Fjord, 1892

Fjord landscape with sailing boats

Sognejekt ved brygge

Vetlefjorden ved Balholmen (1886)

Ved Dalen i Nærøfjorden (1886)
Images from

Norwegian fjord with snow capped mountains

Anders Monsen Askevold was born in Askvoll, in Sunnfjord, Norway. He was the second oldest of ten siblings. His father was a teacher. His early training started at the age of thirteen in Bergen under Hans Leganger Reuch (1800-1854) . He was educated as a painter in Düsseldorf, but continued his studies in Paris and Munich. Askevold came to Düsseldorf in 1855 and stayed for 3 years. He trained in Düsseldorf under Professor Hans Gude from 1855 until 1859. He was known as a member of the Düsseldorf school of painting with others like Adelsteen Normann. From 1861 to 1866 he was in Paris. In 1866 Askevold moved back to Norway and settled in Bergen. After this he moved back to Düsseldorf where he would spend his winters in Germany and his summers in Norway.
He died in 1900 in Düsseldorf. His paintings were shown at numerous international exhibitions, including world exhibitions in London (1862), Paris (1867) and (1878), Vienna (1873) and Philadelphia (1876). In Vienna and Philadelphia, he was honored with medals. In 1884, in London he won the gold medal. A monument was erected in his honor by the municipality of Askvoll during 1934. A painting by Askevold sold for over £5,000 in 2009.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Xiao Song Jiang

Xiao Song Jiang

Xiao Song Jiang was born in 1955, in Wuhan, China. In 1978 he studied fine arts at the China Academy of Art, formerly the Zhejiang Art Academy, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1982, then began lecturing watercolor at the City of Wuhan Construction College. Four years after, Song was selected to further develop his skill at the provincial Hubei Art Academy. During his time there, he accumulated years of experience, painting, sketching, and working for a refined grasp of color and technique.
Throughout his early career, Song has received numerous awards as one of the representatives of Chinese paintings with works displayed at international art exhibitions in the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Singapore. He also had the honor of having four representative works collected and preserved at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) and three works at the Jiangsu Provincial Art Museum.
In 1988, Song immigrated to Canada and invested a passion for its vivid scenes of the broad North American landscape. While there, he travelled widely from coast to coast and gained some 20 years of experience forming his unique style of a mixture of brush and knife with attention to the unique natural detail, richer handling of light, shadow and depth in each piece, which has won him numerous awards in North American exhibitions and art festivals.
He now lives by the lake in Toronto, Canada with his wife and son. He is influenced by the beautiful land and friendly people. Through his paintings, he wishes to express his love to the North American landscape and all its people.

Boat Place





Lane of Venice
Images from

Brown’s Memory

Evening of July

Fishing Port

Harbor of the Fall
Images from

As he had done every day when his factory shift was finished, the young man had bicycled to the Yangtze River in the middle of the large industrial city of Wuhan, where he grew up. There, for an hour and a half each day, he spent his only free time making oil sketches of river traffic and docks. There was no money for canvases, so he painted on cardboard. He’d received no formal art education, since Mao Tse-tung’s communist government closed schools before Jiang reached high school, and he—along with millions of other students—had been forced to leave the cities and work on farms. As a teenager with an artistic sensibility, Jiang sought out books of Western poetry and novels by Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas. Libraries had been shut down, and all aspects of Western culture were banned, so he borrowed books in secret from friends.
(Excerpts from China-born painter Xiao Song Jiang, reflects on his artistic journey and goals by Gussie Fauntleroy at

Reflection of summer


The Noon
Images from Eric Smith Artexpo/Spectrum Art Show's photostream

As a boy in Wuhan before the Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, he thought he wanted to be an architect. His father was a technical engineer, and his mother worked as a primary-school principal. But the closing of schools eliminated that option, and his creative energy was funneled instead into teaching himself to paint. When Chinese society was reopened and began to modernize through the policies of Mao’s successor, Jiang saw his persistence in self-education begin to pay off. Out of hundreds of applicants from his home province who underwent the highly competitive examination process, he was the only one accepted into the Zhejiang Art Academy (now the China Academy of Art.) Because he had worked more than five years at the factory, Chinese policy at the time granted him a stipend for studying, allowing him to purchase better art supplies. He was placed in the printmaking department, his second choice, but his watercolor instructor allowed him to work in oils during class.
After earning a bachelor of arts, Jiang taught watercolor to architecture students at a government-run construction college in Wuhan. Then came further studies at Hubei Art Academy and the selection of his paintings by the Chinese government for inclusion in several international exhibitions. Jiang’s sister-in-law had studied in Canada, and through her he learned of an opportunity to show his work in Edmonton, Alberta.
In 1988 he traveled to Edmonton for a one-man show. Following the show he intended to return to China, where his wife and 6-month-old son remained. The Chinese government further encouraged his return by offering him a voucher to buy a motorcycle, a rare and hard-to-obtain commodity during that period in China. Then came Tiananmen Square. The massive protests in major Chinese cities—including Wuhan—and ensuing massacres by the Chinese army became symbolized internationally by a lone protester facing down a row of tanks. Having published writings critical of the government in a Chinese newspaper, Jiang was concerned about the government’s response should he return.
He obtained asylum in Canada and remained, joined two years later by his wife and son. In 1992 the family moved to Toronto, which offered a vibrant art community and proximity to other large cities. Initially Jiang supported his family as a street 
artist creating charcoal portraits, but his landscapes soon began to catch collectors’ eyes. For 13 years he attended Art-
expo New York, where galleries purchased virtually everything he brought.
(Excerpts from China-born painter Xiao Song Jiang, reflects on his artistic journey and goals by Gussie Fauntleroy at