Quest of the Holy Grail

ABBEY, Edwin Austin (1852-1911)

Published by Curtis and Cameron 18971902, Boston, 1897
From Randall House Rare Books (ABAA) (Santa Barbara, CA, U.S.A.)

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Approximately 10 x 8 inches, image area varies. the 15 loose plates are in the original brown cardboard portfolio, lettered in gilt. Illustrated by photo engravings which have been carefully and exqusisitely hand coloured. The 15 prints, exquisite in colour and detail, are from murals that grace the walls of the Abbey Room of the Boston Public Library. These murals are composed of a series of 15 panels featuring 150 life-sized figures illustrating the Arthurian legend, The Quest for the Holy Grail.American painter and illustrator, active in England. He began his artistic training in 1866, studying drawing with the Philadelphia portrait and landscape painter Isaac L. Williams (1817-95). In 1868 he attended evening classes in drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Christian Schussele (?1824-79). In the same year Abbey began to work as an illustrator for the Philadelphia publishers Van Ingen & Snyder. In 1870 Harper's Weekly published the Puritans' First Thanksgiving, and in 1871 Abbey moved to New York to join the staff of Harper & Brothers, thus inaugurating his most important professional relationship. Throughout the 1870s Abbey's reputation grew, both for his detailed exhibition watercolours and for his elegant line drawings, which, translated to wood-engravings in numerous periodicals, illustrated both factual and fictional events of the past and present. The influences on him were mainly English, in particular the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and illustrations in the English press, which he studied avidly. The success of his illustrations to some of Robert Herrick's poems, such as Corinna's Going A-Maying in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (May 1874), prompted Harper & Brothers in 1878 to send Abbey to England to do a complete series of drawings for an illustrated gift-book, Selections from the Poetry of Robert Herrick (New York, 1882). On his arrival in England, Abbey found his spiritual home, and except for a few trips abroad, he never left. Abbey, a small, handsome, athletic man, had a genius for forging long-lasting and often profitable friendships. In 1877 he helped to found the Tile Club, which included among its members the architect Stanford White, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Winslow Homer, whose activities resulted in gift-books and lengthy magazine articles. Abbey's most intense friendship was with the English landscape painter and illustrator Alfred Parsons (1847-1920). The two artists shared studios and gallery exhibitions, travelled together widely and collaborated on several projects, most notably the gift-books Old Songs (New York, 1889) and The Quiet Life (New York, 1890). Abbey derived much of the inspiration for these from his long sojourns in the English countryside, especially, from 1885 to 1889, as one of the central figures in the artists' colony at Broadway (Hereford & Worcestershire), along with Parsons, Frank Millet (1846-1912) and John Singer Sargent. Abbey undertook illustrative commissions throughout his life (his illustrations to Shakespeare's plays being especially noteworthy), but from 1889 on he devoted more time to mural projects and oil paintings. In 1890 he sent his first major oil, May Day Morning (New Haven, CT, Yale U. A.G.), based on one of the Herrick illustrations, to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, where it was favourably received. Until 1910 Abbey exhibited there frequently, and he was elected ARA in 1896 and RA in 1898. His exhibited works were usually based on Shakespearean, troubadour or Renaissance themes. Large and richly coloured, the paintings reflect Abbey's fascination with the stage, particularly in the arrangement of the figures, their poses and sumptuously coloured costumes (Abbey designed the costumes for John Hare's Tosca (1889) and Sir Henry Irving's Richard II (1898), among other productions). Although he received many honours and awards, the signal event of Abbey's career was the commission in 1902 to paint Edward VII's coronation (. Bookseller Inventory # 15531

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Quest of the Holy Grail

Publisher: Curtis and Cameron 18971902, Boston

Publication Date: 1897

Binding: Hardcover

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At Randall House we deal in fine and rare books in many fields; this includes collectible books, limited edition books, and out-of-print books. From Shakespeare Folios to Carter's ABC for Book Collectors, from fine bindings to fine press books, from children's books to early Bibles, from incunabula to modern firsts, they are all part of what makes Randall House Rare Books the book collector's paradise. In addition to books we carry autographs, manuscripts, autograph letters, historical documents and ephemera. We always have a wonderful selection of original paintings, etchings, works on paper, and sometimes sculpture, of renowned artists on display. We also love to have visitors, so make sure to stop in when you are in the area!

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