About This Artwork

Abbott Handerson Thayer
American, 1849–1921

Winged Figure, 1889

Oil on canvas
130.8 x 95.9 cm (51 1/2 x 37 3/4 in.)
Signed in lower right: "Abbott H. Thayer/ 1889"

Simeon B. Williams Fund, 1947.32

This female angel is one of many that Abbott Handerson Thayer painted during his career. Originally a painter of animals, Thayer created portraits and then allegorical figures like this example after training in Paris. The artist wrote of his seraphic subjects, “I have put on wings probably more to symbolize an exalted atmosphere . . . where one need not explain the action of his figures.” Other late 19th-century artists such as Augustus Saint-Gaudens also represented angelic female figures to personify what they perceived as the virtues of women. In Winged Figure, Thayer mixed this idealism with a level of naturalism, particularizing the woman’s features and giving her form a sense of mass and gravity.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Ninth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, May 16-August 31, 1914, cat. no. 113.

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fifth Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, December 15, 1914-January 24, 1915, cat. no. 71.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Institute, Abbott H. Thayer, April 24-June 30, 1919, cat. no. 2, ill. opposite p. 30.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Abbott Handerson Thayer, March 20-April 30, 1922, cat. no. 32, ill.;

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Abbott H. Thayer Memorial Exhibition, May 9-31, 1922, cat. no. 21, ill.

New York, Gimbel Brothers, Turn of the Century American Paintings, December 1, 1946.

Syracuse, N.Y., Everson Museum, Abbott Handerson Thayer, September 17-November 7, 1982; traveled to New York, National Academy of Design, December 10-January 23, 1983.

Washington D.C., National Museum of American Art, Abbott Thayer: The Nature of Art, April 23-September 6, 1999.

Publication History

“The Summer Exhibition of American Paintings at the Albright Art Gallery,” Academy Notes 9 (July 1914), ill. p. 82.

Leila Mechlin, “The Albright Art Gallery,” Art and Progress, 5, 11 (September 1914), ill. p. 395.

Helen M. Beatty, “Abbot H. Thayer,” Scribner’s Magazine, 70, 3 (Septmeber 1921), p. 379-384, ill. opp. p. 259.

Helen M. Beatty, “Abbott H. Thayer,” American Magazine of Art, 12, 10 (1921), pp. 328-334, ill. p. 333.

Bulletin of Smith College Hillyer Art Gallery, March 30, 1922, ill. on cover.

Nathaniel Pousette-Dart, Abbot H. Thayer (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1923).

Smith College Handbook (1925), ill. p. 54.

Nelson C. White, Abbott H. Thayer, Painter and Naturalist (Hartford: Connecticut Printers, Inc., 1951), ill. p. 288.

Thomas B. Brumbaugh, “The Monumental Art of Abbott H. Thayer,” Antiques, 103 (June 1973) pp. 1134-1140, ill. p. 1137, fig. 6.

Thomas B. Brumbaugh, “An Artist and His Model: Abbott H. Thayer and Clara May,” American Art Journal, 10, 1 (May 1978), p. 24-32, ill. p. 24.

Georg Feurstein, Sacred Sexuality (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1993), ill.

Excerpts from Sister Serene’s Diary Concerning Her Journey from the Worldly Life to Becoming A Child of God (Santa Cruz, Calif.: Wilderness Retreat Center, 1994), ill.

Glenda Smith Walters, "This place That I Go..." (Xulon Press, 2012), cover (ill.).

Ownership History

Hillyer Art Gallery, Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 1889; Gimbel Brothers, New York, 1946; Julius H. Weitzner, New York, 1947; sold by him to the Art Institute, 1947.

Interpretive Resources

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