Artist biography

Edwin Austin ABBEY 1852–1911

Painter of historical subjects and illustrator. Born 1 April 1852 in Philadelphia, U.S.A. Studied at the Pennsylvania Academy 1869–71; was employed by Harper Brothers 1871–91 and sent by them in 1878 to England, where he settled permanently in 1880. Travelled to Holland 1885, the first of several continental tours to France, Italy, Germany, etc. First exhibited at the R.A. 1885 and regularly from 1890. Painted a series of large decorative panels, including ‘The Quest of the Holy Grail’, Boston Library, U.S.A., 1890–1901; a reredos for the American Church in Paris 1904; the official picture of the Coronation of Edward VII 1903–4; a mural for the Royal Exchange 1904; and a series of murals for the Pennsylvanian State Capitol completed in 1910. He achieved a great reputation for his illustrations to Herrick's poems (1882), to Goldsmith's comedies (1882–91, 1901–2), and to the Comedies (1896) and Tragedies (1902) of Shakespeare. A.R.A. 1894, R.A. 1898; A.R.W.S. 1895; member of the American Academy of Design 1902 and of several other foreign academies. He bequeathed funds to the R.A. for the foundation of scholarships. Died in Chelsea, London, 1 August 1911. A memorial exhibition was held at the R.A. in 1912.

Lit: E. V. Lucas, Edwin Austin Abbey, Royal Academician. The Record of His Life and Work, 1921, 2 vols.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I