National Gallery of Art Custom Prints

Abbott Handerson Thayer

Mount Monadnock, probably 1911/1914

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About the Artwork

Abbott Thayer described Mount Monadnock, the subject of this subdued, violet-blue landscape, as "this dear mountain." It provided continual artistic inspiration and personal solace for the artist throughout his life. In this depiction, he casts the majority of the scene in shadow, save for the stark white mountain peak, illuminated by the rising sun in the dawn sky. Thayer represents the mountaintop in thick, expressive strokes of paint, further differentiating the peak from the more smoothly rendered landscape in the foreground. Born in Boston and raised in rural New Hampshire, Thayer trained in Paris and New York, becoming a successful portrait painter and leading member of the Society of American Artists. Wishing to retain his connection to the countryside, in 1888 Thayer acquired property in the quiet town of Dublin, New Hampshire, an artists' colony with views of his beloved mountain. He would settle there permanently by 1901.

A generation earlier, Mount Monadnock figured prominently in the lives of the transcendentalist poets and philosophers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Both artist and naturalist, Thayer was deeply rooted in transcendental philosophies that imbued his landscapes with cultural, spiritual, and personal significance. He regarded his landscapes as a form of portraiture, true to nature.

Upon learning in 1911 that a group of private developers wanted to purchase an expanse of Mount Monadnock, Thayer successfully organized the local community around its conservation. When he died, his ashes were scattered on its summit.

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