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Abbott Handerson Thayer
Angel
1887
oil
36 1/4 x 28 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly



Critics considered Thayer's Angel an image of “spotless innocence and aspiration” in an age of materialism. They did not know that the figure was Thayer's personal allegory of hope and spirituality, created after two of his children had died and he had lost his wife to mental illness. While painting it, Thayer wrote, “Yesterday I found the head so on the right track at last that I had an inspired moment partly aided by that strange summoning of clear sight, and when I looked at it I saw at a glance my best thing. I am blissful.” Angel is set like a jewel in a gilded wood frame designed by architect Stanford White.