Various Places: 1881-1917. Item #CAT0133
A small but significant collection of letters from the artist Abbott Thayer to various recipients, showing Thayer’s obsessions with the natural landscape, color, and the artistic process. Of particular note are a passionate letter from early in Thayer’s career to a fellow artist, a letter discussing butterflies with sketches of flowers, and a vitriolic letter to a member of the U.S. consulting board regarding animal camouflage (a subject of great interest to Thayer in his later years). Also included is a significant letter from Charles Freer to Thayer discussing two of his works which now reside in the Freer Collection.
Contains the following:
Freer, Charles. Autograph Letter, Signed, to Abbott Thayer discussing a Recent Visit and Purchase of Artwork. Detroit, 1904. Single 7 x 9 inch sheet, with writing on recto and verso. Autograph letter, signed, to Abbott Thayer, discussing a recent visit and the possible purchase of artwork: “I must not accept the use of word in the referring to your own work. The masterpiece is a matter of feeling - and I feel that “Monadnock” and “Angel” are of your very best. I would like to care permanently for them both…”. Two paintings of Mount Monadnock - “Monadnock in Winter” and “Monadnock Mountain” - both currently reside in the Freer Museum collection, as does “A Winged Figure,” and our assumption is that these are the paintings described in the letter, more likely “Monadnock in Winter” as it is dated 1904. With additional material in the letter on art, including descriptions of other paintings at Abbott’s studio. Freer and Thayer were close friends. Freer had made a fortune in the manufacture of railroad cars and devoted himself to art collecting from the age of forty-six onward.
ALS from Thayer to Timothy Cole, July 6, 1881. Single leaf folded, 4 pp. Thayer writes on the value of art: “The perfection of what you say on the value of any truly aimed work delighted me. Consequently, however, a picture is no more worth $500.00 than one cent / either price is fair, if it enables the painter to live.” The $500 in question is probably the price that Cole paid for Thayer’s “Autumn Afternoon in Berkshire,” which Cole bought after becoming enamored with it while engraving it for Scribner’s.
ALS, undated, on the subject of butterflies, with two sketches of flowers. Single leaf. “It is simply thrilling to see the almost [illegible] smoky black wing tips…”
ALS, undated, to Maria Oakey Dewing discussing a recent meeting and his painting "Caritas:" “That was very nice of you to meet me, and I am glad you like the so-called ‘Caritas’ so much…”
Typed Letter, signed, to Dr. Arthur Gordon Webster. 2 pp, typed, with an additional typed section affixed to head of first page explaining Webster’s role as a member of the U.S Consulting Board “who had earlier applied to Mr. Thayer as authority on Concealing Coloration.” Thayer tried to convince the U.S Government to use camouflage during the World War One. His ideas were generally ignored during this period, though they were used later. This letter shows a despondent Thayer pleading his case: “The vulgar cry at sight of a white boat or spire, gilded by low afternoon sun, on hearing it asserted that at that very moment this very boat looked at from the side away from the sun, and half round from there to the sunny side… this cry has worn a hole in my heart. I know of course, that this is all in my text…”
ALS, undated, lamenting the lack of funding for a study, presumably related to his efforts with military camouflage.
An interesting collection, well preserved in near fine condition with minimal wear. Acquired by us from a private collection with other material from the Nelson White estate, suggesting that White used these as research for his 1951 biography of Thayer.