Abbott H. Thayer (American, 1849-1921)
Portrait of Helen Bigelow Merriman
Signed and dated "Abbott H. Thayer 1890" u.l., bears ACA Gallery, New York, label
Oil on canvas, 43 3/4 x 34 in. (109.8 x 86.4 cm), unframed.
Condition: Lined, scattered retouch, craquelure, and surface grime.
Provenance: Ex collection Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Rev. Daniel Merriman in 1895 as Portrait of a Lady; through to the current owner.
N.B. Helen Bigelow Merriman (1844-1933) was an artist, art historian, author, and philanthropist. She is shown in this portrait holding a paint brush. The only child of Worcester carpet mogul Erastus Bigelow, Helen inherited the family fortune, art collection, and summer residence, "Stonehurst Manor." She married Reverend Daniel Merriman, Pastor of the Central Congregational Church of Worcester, and had one son, Roger Merriman.
The Merrimans were active proponents of the arts during Worcester's golden age. Mrs. Merriman took an active role in the Worcester Art Society, which was established in 1877, giving lectures on art history. She also served as president of the North Conway Public Library and founded Memorial Hospital in memory of her parents. Her husband, Reverend Daniel Merriman, was the first president of the Worcester Art Museum.
Helen Merriman wrote a small, 36-page booklet entitled Concerning Portraits and Portraiture, which she presented at the Worcester Art Society in February of 1891. In it she discussed Abbott Thayer's methods, noting that she had observed the artist at work. She did not, however, specifically reference her portrait sessions with Thayer. Thayer's logs now at the Smithsonian indicate that Daniel Merriman paid $500 for his wife's portrait.
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