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Educational Insights

Speaking of Pictures

My Children (Mary, Gerald, and Gladys Thayer) by Abbott Handerson Thayer

To a trained eye, almost every artwork contains clues that reveal a story. An artist may also convey subtle meaning through symbols or composition. Roll over this image to reveal the hidden meaning behind My Children.

Thayer painting

Abbott Handerson Thayer, My Children (Mary, Gerald, and Gladys Thayer), about 1897, oil, 86 1/4 x 61 1/8 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.122

Abbott Handerson Thayer, known for his paintings of angels, often used his children as models. Referring to My Children, Thayer wrote of his aim to show "three blissfully exalted children" in a way that "puts beauty to the eye first, and the idea last." One viewer admired the work so much that he said it would become "the greatest picture painted by an American." Use your mouse to roll over the image and find out more!

To learn about Thayer and his idealized figures, visit our online exhibition Abbott Handerson Thayer.

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This Web feature is posted in loving memory of Richard Murray, a scholar of Thayer and a valued Smithsonian American Art Museum colleague.