Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Edwin Austin Abbey The Quest for the Holy Grail Murals1890-1902

Painted for the Boston public Library
8 feet by 192 feet in fifteen panels

Edwin Austin Abbey 1852 – 1911

Armand Cabrera
Edwin Austin Abbey was born in1852 and died in 1911. At the height of his career he was one of the most popular artists of his day in both America and England. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy and began working as an Illustrator in 1870 for Harpers Publishing.

In 1887 he did illustrations for Harpers publication of Shakespeare’s Comedies. Abbey would use Shakespeare as a basis for his art throughout his career.

Famous for his brilliant pen and ink drawings Abbey did not begin to paint seriously in oils until 1889. Abbeys paintings were done on a large salon style scale, seven to ten feet, some even larger.

One of the biggest projects of his career was the Boston Library Murals.
The murals were based on the legend of the Holy Grail. The Fifteen Panels were 8 feet high and 192 feet in total length. The project took more than twelve years for which Abbey was paid fifteen thousand dollars; he finished it in 1902.

That same year he started the painting of the coronation of Edward IV. The canvas was fifteen feet by nine feet, and took two years to complete.

In 1906 he painted Columbus in the new world, another large canvas at ten feet by seven feet. It was his last Royal Academy submission.

Abbey’s greatest undertaking was the murals and paintings done for the Harrisburg State capitol. Started in 1906, the project would take the rest of his life and would be finished by John Singer Sargent and Violet Oakley after his death.

The projects centerpiece, the Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, is thirty-five feet by thirty-five feet square. Abbey also painted the ceiling which is twenty-four feet in diameter. Other parts of the commission were four lunettes, thirty-eight feet by twenty two feet and four pendentives fourteen feet in diameter. Abbey painted three canvases for Harrisburg, one twelve feet by six feet and two twenty-four feet by twelve feet. Edwin Austin Abbey died at the age of fifty-nine in 1911.

Edwin Austin Abbey R.A. His Life and Work (two volumes)
E.V. Lucas
Charles Scribners and Sons 1921

Unfaded pageant E.A. Abbeys Shakespearean subjects
Lucy Oakley
Wallach Art Gallery 1994

Edwin Austin Abbey 1852-1911
Various authors
Yale University Gallery Exhibition Catalog 1974

QuoteThe gist of what I believe as student should be made to do is to be careful in his construction and accurate in his drawing, as accurate as humanly possible. If he is a colorist this wont hurt his color- and if he is not (and a few of them are), he will have the drawing and composition and design to justify it. ~Edwin Austin Abbey

Sunday, December 21, 2008

William Forsyth

Armand Cabrera

William Forsyth was born in California, Ohio on October 15, 1854. He was the oldest of four children. The Forsyth family moved to Versailles, Indiana when he was only ten, eventually they settled in Indianapolis.

During the Financial Panic of 1873, Forsyth left high school to help earn money for his family. He worked with his brother, painting stained glass window decorations in houses. Forsyth never returned to high school, although he was motivated to continue his education. He was a voracious reader of fiction and non-fiction and taught himself math.

In 1877, Forsyth attended classes at the newly opened Indiana School of Art in Indianapolis. Although the school closed after only two years, Forsyth made contacts that allowed him to travel to Europe to study at the Munich Academy. Forsyth was formally accepted to the Academy in 1882. He studied drawing---first under Gyula Benczur and then Nikolaus Gysis. In 1883, Forsyth began painting classes with Ludwig Von Loefftz. After finishing his last year at the Academy in1886, Forsyth opened a studio in Munich with J. Otis Adams---another Indiana painter. Adams left for Indiana after only a year, but Forsyth stayed in Munich and finally returned to Indiana in late 1888. Upon his return, he opened an art school in Muncie with Adams. After two years, the school closed and Forsyth then joined the faculty with T.C. Steele at the Indiana School of Art.

Forsyth, Steele, Otis, along with Otto Stark and Richard Gruelle became known as the Hoosier Group. The group was influential in the Midwest and was one of the first regional art movements in the country. Forsyth also helped found the Society of Western Artists in 1896. Late the next year, Forsyth married one of his pupils, Alice Atkinson. She was 18 years his junior. The couple had three daughters. After the Indiana School of Art closed in 1897, Forsyth had a very long career teaching at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis from 1906 to 1933.

William Forsyth died of kidney failure in February 1934 at the age of 80.


The Hoosier Group Five American PaintersEckert Publications 1985
Judith Vale Newton

The Passage - Return of Indiana Painters from Germany, 1880-1905
The Indiana Museum of Art 1990
Martin Krause

Ordinary people only see the form, and not the mood outdoors. To them the clouds are white, the sky is blue, and the trees are green. The artist sees a great deal more than this to him the most attractive things are those that are expressed in some subtle way.~ William Forsyth