Edwin Austin Abbey (1852 – 1911)
American painter and illustrator Edwin Austin Abbey was born in Philadelphia in 1852. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Christian Schuessele. Abbey began as an illustrator, producing numerous illustrations and sketches for such magazines as Harper’s Weekly (1871–1874) and Scribner’s Magazine. He moved to New York City in 1871. His illustrations were strongly influenced by French and German black and white art. He also illustrated several best-selling books, including Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (1875), Selections from the Poetry of Robert Herrick (1882), and She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (1887). Abbey also illustrated a four-volume set of The Comedies of Shakespeare for Harper & Brothers in 1896.
He moved to England in 1878, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He was elected in 1883 to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours. In 1884 Abbey turned to oil painting and specialized in large literary and historical works encompassing the various period revivals then in fashion: medieval, Shakespearean, and 17th century. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1896 and an academician two years later. He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1902. Abbey’s later works include decorative schemes for several public buildings, among them the state capitol at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as well as the royal commission in 1902 to paint the coronation of King Edward VII of England. A celebrated success in England, Abbey also maintained a prestigious reputation in the United States.
Abbey died in August 1911, leaving two rooms of the commission unfinished. The remainder of the work was given to Violet Oakley, who completed the commission from start to finish using her own designs.