Abbott Thayer was a painter during the artistic period now known as the American Renaissance. He lived from 1849 - 1921, and he was a native of New England. Thayer began life in a position of privilege. He was born wealthy and was able to attend the Chauncey Hall School where he learned to create animal portraits from Henry Morse. He then attended the Brooklyn Academy of Design from 1867 - 1875. Following a marriage to Kate Bloede, Thayer spent a year in Paris studying under Jean Leon Gerome.
Thayer's career began in 1879 when he opened a studio in Brooklyn in the same building as Daniel Chester French and Thomas Dewing. It was here that Thayer became president of the Society of American Artists. His involvement with the organization was short-lived, however. Thayer moved to Hudson to be more involved with his family.
Thayer's wife, Kate, died of tuberculosis in 1890, and her death is thought to be the inspiration for Thayer's best-known work: idealized women, usually reminiscent of winged angels. Thayer moved again in 1901, this time to Dublin, New Hampshire. Here, he painted portraits of friends, landscapes inspired by the local mountains, and more angelic women. His works were extremely personal, and he was approached by Charles Freer, his most avid collector, about it. Freer felt that some of Thayer's paintings were almost too personal to be sold, but Thayer insisted that the funds simply allowed him to create more. Thayer later married again, this time to a woman named Emma Beach, a life-long friend of his. He was also known to be friends with Samuel Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and Charles Lang Freer.
Thayer's interests extended beyond art, however. He was very interested in natural history. His fascination with animals eventually turned into the collaborative effort on animal camouflage, Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom," which he wrote with his son, Gerald. He was also a proponent of wildlife conservation, and he started The Thayer Fund which paid for the establishment of bird sanctuaries on the east coast.
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