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ABBOTT H. THAYER
By Alice Dinsmoor
"Now, gentlemen take off your hats!" This was the introduction given by William M. Chase to a painting of Abbott H. Thayer's brought for exhibition at the Society of American Artists in New York, when really great works were hung there when Inness, La Farge, Vedder, Winslow Homer and their contemporaries were forming a school of distinctive American Art.
And ever since, men have kept their hats off hats off to Thayer's work. Born in Boston in 1849, a student in New York and in Paris, resident in Peekskill and New York, his latest and most loved home was in Dublin, New Hampshire, where he died last May.
Soon after his death, a committee of artists and friends, including also his son, Gerald, were asked by the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of New York to bring together there a collection of his pictures, as a memorial exhibition. Accordingly seventy-eight paintings have been arranged in one of the galleries, and in a smaller room near some representative drawings. Thayer's intimate friend and the most discriminating art crtic we have, Mr. Royal Cortissoz, has written the introduction to the catalogue.
With him as authority I am in no danger of straying from the truth in any statements I may make about the artist or his work.
As a boy and a student at the Academy in New York, Thayer painted dogs and horses and the
dwellers in the "Zoo." During his four years of study in Paris he gained in his ability to draw, but Gerome, in whose studio he worked, apparently left no impress upon him, though the discipline of his atelier was beneficial.
By 1887, Thayer began to paint. flowers. landscapes and pictures, sometimes portraits of women and children. Intense lover of Nature and of beauty in the human face and form, his brush never failed to respond to their charm. It is impossible to imagine him as putting on canvas a repulsive object or scene.
Let us walk about the gallery just now sacred to Thayer's work. At the right on entering we find his "Winter Sunrise on Monodnock," owned by the Metropolitan. A purple haze lies over the mountain, its topmost ridge just touched with the rosy glow of the rising sun. Row upon row, the massive evergreens climb the side, rising from "a roughly generalized foreground" reminding one of Corot. Mr. Cortissoz says of this picture, “This is one of the greatest landscapes ever painted in America or anywhere else—a personal impression of nature."
A little beyond it, is a later picture of the same subject, which is to me yet more impressively beautiful. The sun has risen a little higher, not only lighting the topmost snowy heights but also throwing a dark, rich glow over the bare shoulder of the mountain. This
canvas, painted in 1919, belongs to the Thayer estate. I should suppose that the Corcoran or some of the other great art museums of our country would add this treasure to their collections.
With it should also go the majestic "Monadnock Angel"-his last picture and unfinished, but eloquent. The Angel, a life size woman's form with dark hair and round, girlish face, in a loose white robe such as Thayer loved to put about his figures, stands with spread wings and outstretched, half beckoning hands, on the mountain. side, partly among the evergreens. It is as if Thayer had said to himself, "I will not leave my beloved mountain until I have bequeathed to her an angel form that shall ever bid nature-lovers to her shrine."
At the opposite end of the room is his "Caritas," familiar to all frequenters of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. A great pleasure indeed it is to see the majestic, statuesque figure and the lovely children beside her, here in New York. Near this hangs a threequarters portrait of Alice Freeman Palmer, the early president of Wellesley College, lent by that institution. The shy wistfulness that those who knew that strong, noble woman never failed to find in her face, is there. Close by is one of the artist's most beautiful angels-the property of Smith College. She has laid one wing against a cloud, and resting her head upon it, has fallen asleep. The face is girlish and lovely.
For several of the pictures, his own children have served as models. Notable among them there is the
"Virgin Enthroned" one of his largest canvases and owned by his ardent admirer, Mr. John Gellatly, "The Young Woman in the Fur Coat" and "Lady in Green Velvet" have the splendid virility that we associate with Renbrandt and Leonardo. The "Boy and the Angel," painted between 1917 and 1920, Thayer himself was inclined. to consider his best work. The Boy of perhaps ten years stands close in front of a strong, masterful angel, whose one hand is bent protectingly toward him, while the other, raised high above him, points forward.
The history of the "Figure halfdraped" is as romantic as it is strange. "Painted in New York City in the 80's it was unearthed in some old box of canvases and forgotten sketches in the barn at the artist's home at Monadnock, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1920. No one apparently of the artist's family had remembered its. existence during these thirty years or more, and it would seem that the artist himself had lost track of it." It is "lent anonymously," and I am told was sold for a higher price than had ever been paid for a painting by an American.
The woods and the flowers and the winds, especially as they are associated with his beloved Monadnock, were inseparably a part of Thayer's very being, and so it was most fitting that when "the earthly home of his tabernacle" had been reduced to ashes, they should be scattered on that mountain top to be guarded by the angels of the mountain and the clouds.
By Harold D. Carew
Franklin B. Sanborn, last of the abolitionists, disciple of Emerson, counsellor of John Brown, friend and biographer of these two crusaders and their contemporaries, Higginson, Longfellow, Thoreau, Channing, Bronson Alcott, Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker and Hawthorne, was perhaps Hampton Falls' most illustrious son; and this year, when that little New Hampshire town is celebrating its two hundredth anniversary, it is timely to record something of the man whose career as a patriot, historian, publicist, and biographer gave him. world-wide distinction.
Frank Sanborn was essentially a radical, a soldier of the common good. He played many parts during his more than eighty-five years, and each part he played well. His death on February 24, 1917, marked the closing of a remarkable life such as is given to few men. It is perhaps too early to make a critical estimate of his work, although his influence on three generations was very great. It is a singularly remarkable fact and one worth recording that with his advancing years, when most men's literary output diminishes and their activity in current affairs become lessened, Sanborn maintained his voluminous production with the same vigorous bouyancy that marked his earlier years. He was a veritable storehouse of knowledge, with wide experience covering the greater part of one century and no inconsiderable part of the present one. It is unthinkable that a man who molded his opinions under the influences of such a remote period as the 1850's and who was a leading
participant in the anti-slavery movement, could have kept abreast of the times not only as a student but as a leader and a teacher of modern democratic ideals. But this he did up to yesterday, as it were, championing what he believed right and opposing what he thought wrong; writing a spirited defence of this and caustic criticism of that; supporting this movement with all the passionate fire of his forceful and attractive intellect and directing with unrestricted vigor the shafts of harsh condemnation against what he considered mistaken ideals and false standards.
Born in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, on the last day of the the year 1831, the years of his youth became intimately associated with the little town of Peterborough an association whose spiritual influence for more than sixty years gave Peterborough the enduring dignity of a shrine. This interest was the memory of a romance shattered into tragedy under circumstances at once the most poignant and pathetic. In his "Recollections of Seventy Years," written when he was seventy-five, he chronicles the story of his meeting with Miss Ariana Smith Walker of Peterborough in the little church at Hampton Falls Hampton Falls one Sunday morning; of his subsequent visits to the Walker home, of the courtship that followed, and of the hurried marriage that took place when her approaching end was only a matter of days. Sanborn made many pilgrimages to Peterborough during his lifetime, to "the little wood across" and to other scenes which he cherished with deep rev
erance and which he describes with vivid, sentimental appreciation. My repeating the story here is needless when he himself has told it so much better than I could repeat it. No sympathetic insight of mine would be comparable to the tribute he weaves round the reality and the
As a publicist Sanborn was preeminently a leader, an authority who spared no one for the sake of nicety of expression. A hater of sham and hypocrisy, he had no use for the social and political demagogue. He had an almost uncanny ability to forecast political events. I recall a notable instance, in February, 1912, when Roosevelt had announced his hat was in the ring for the presidential nomination, he prophesied to me the outcome of the feud between T. R. and Taft. He likened Roosevelt to President Buchanan, who divided the Democratic party in 1860, and declared. that if the Oyster Bay statesman, whose political life Sanborn considered then at stake, did not receive the Republican nomination at Chicago, he would not submit to defeat, but would straightway proceed to organize a third party. That was four months before the memorable cry of fraud went up in the convention hall. What Sanborn told me was printed as an interview in a Boston newspaper. His opinion was widely heralded throughout the country, though his dislike for Roosevelt was generally understood; and in the light of events that followed, this prophecy serves to indicate the accuracy of his political predilections.
I have said that Frank Sanborn was a radical. He was a radical in the sense of being unconventional. I have said that he was a hater of sham and hypocrisy. The very foundation of his social philosophy
precluded his being otherwise. The only aristocracy he recognized is the aristocracy of intellect. He was a keen and critical analyst, capable of understanding the motives that move men, quick to detect superficial traits and shallow pretense. Intuitively he perceived cause and effect with sweeping precision, and through his long life he never lost the spirit of radicalism born of freedom. It was the radical spirit which made him an agitator and led him into that courageous circle headed by Wendell Phillips.
The year 1835 witnessed the mobbing of William Lloyd Garrison in the streets of Boston by slavery sympathizers. Abolition was then in general disfavor except with a little knot of agitators here and there, and anyone known to be in sympathy with the movement was socially and politically ostracized. That same year, Phillips, just admitted to practice as an attorney in Massachusetts, had seen. the mobbing of the friendless editor. Soon after he threw himself into the cause with all the ardor and sincerity of youthful conviction. Seventeen years later, when Sanborn arrived to participate in the struggle, Phillips and his co-workers were yet regarded as dangerous radicals.
Sanborn must have counted well the cost, but his radicalism born of freedom urged him into the work on the side of righteousness. Public opinion had not yet crystallized against slavery, and conservative business interests exercised complete mastery over the situation, giving of their time and influence and money to repel these crusaders for equal rights.
Sanborn was secretary of the Massachusetts Massachusetts Kansas Committee during the dark days of border ruffianism and bloodshed when Kansas Territory was the center