Object Image

Brother and Sister (Mary and Gerald Thayer)

This work portrays Abbott Thayer's children one year after their mother's hospitalization for "melancholia," or severe depression. Kate Thayer became physically ill while hospitalized, and Thayer wrote to a friend that her physical deterioration would not be so horrible "were her soul visible" (Anderson, Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1982). Thayer captured the sadness and worry of this difficult period in Mary's heavy-lidded, watery eyes and in Gerald's searching expression. They look like a modern-day Madonna and Child. Their mother would live for two more years, but in this portrait it is as if Mary has already taken on her mother's role in the family. After Kate died, Thayer clung to his children...
1889
Oil on canvas
92.0 x 71.9cm
1929.6.114
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023

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