Below Mount Monadnock
Oil on panel
Purchased through gifts from the Class of 1955 and the Lathrop Fellows; P.997.22
Abbott Thayer’s deep reverence for the New England landscape first took hold during his boyhood in Keene, New Hampshire. After a long interval of urban life, consisting of studies and work in New York and Paris, he returned to the region in the 1890s, settling in nearby Dublin, New Hampshire—first for summers and then permanently in 1901. The burgeoning art colony of Dublin provided the ideal locale for him to paint his beloved New Hampshire hills—particularly Mount Monadnock—and to embrace the rustic outdoor life he relished. As one contemporary recalled, “Thayer shaped his life and the life of his family on Monadnock. [It] was their totem, their fetish, the object of their adoration.” One of many views of the mountain painted by Thayer from his Dublin studio, this landscape captures the peak at dawn, with the sun just catching the summit and the ground covered with a blanket of purifying snow. Thayer reverses earlier landscape traditions, rendering in sharpest focus the most distant point, the peak of the mountain, while the spruces in the midground are loosely delineated in bold calligraphic strokes. This unconventionally expressive manner evokes the peak’s transcendent powers and reveals Thayer’s familiarity with Asian ink paintings, which he admired through the collection of his chief patron, Charles Lang Freer. The painting is inscribed in its frame as a gift to James Allison, a prominent citizen of Dublin who aided Thayer’s successful efforts, beginning around 1910, to protect Mount Monadnock from development. The work’s gilt “frame” is not separate but, together with the central image, rendered on the back of a wooden lid for a box of “Teddy Roosevelt” brand toilet soap. Thayer cut several grooves across the panel, most likely to prevent it from warping. In the process he defaced the image of his arch-nemesis, Roosevelt, with whom he had engaged in an extended acrimonious debate about Thayer’s theories of protective coloration in nature.
Last Updated: 4/17/09