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Winged Figure Seated Upon a Rock
1914

Abbott Handerson Thayer , (American, 1849-1921)


Oil on canvas
H: 241.3 W: 182.9 D: 11.4 cm
United States

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1915.67a-b

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Winged Figure Seated upon a Rock originated as one of the canvases related to the Stevenson Memorial of 1903, a tribute to one of Thayer's favorite authors, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). The copy was still in the artist's studio in 1914, when Thayer made it into a memorial to his late wife, using Gladys as the model and inscribing a Latin dedication that means "Mother of my daughter! To you this monument." Thayer added a second inscription in April 1916 stipulating that the painting never be retouched, "not one pin-point," a provision meant to make the monument inviolable.

When Freer offeref to buy this emotionally charged painting—"my heart's legacy to the world," as Thayer called it—he must have asked that any remaining copies of the Stevenson Memorial be turned over to him, for another of the trial compositions seems to have made its way into his possession. Although the figure was probably copied by Thayer's student Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), Thayer himself appears to have painted the head, "the dominating central fact" of any of his figure paintings, according to Gladys Thayer. The facial expression, she said, "must sing as it were from corner to corner of the canvas."