Friday, May 09, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Edwin Austin Abbey

Born in Philadelphia, USA on 1 April 1852, Edwin ("Ned") Austin Abbey began as a wood engraver for Harper's magazine. His drawing skills were to be quickly acknowledged. He progressed to become a prolific illustrator in pen and ink, and in water colours; later, in the 1890s, he worked in oils. He worked with Harper's in the USA for around seven years, was then sent to England to undertake research for an edition of Robert Herrick's poetry. Abbey apparently fell in love with England's historical background and literature. He returned to the USA from time to time, visiting only, to complete certain commissions, the rest of his life was spent in Europe, mainly in England. In 1888 he married Gertrude Mead, a New York socialite, daughter of a wealthy merchant. In 1898 Abbey was made a member of the crème de la crème of Britain's art world: The Royal Academy.

Abbey's illustrations of scenes from Shakespearean plays, for which he is probably best known these days, revealed his flair for, and knowledge of, costume illustration, along with innate theatrical insight leading to him choose scenes and subjects well, and to place and light them dramatically. Influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's lush style is clear to see, endearing this artist to me on first sight of his work!

Abbey associated with several famous artists of his time, was a close friend of John Singer Sargent ( my blog post on Sargent is HERE). The two artists were commissioned to paint mural decoration for the Boston Public Library, they worked on these for some years in a large studio in England. In 1903 Abbey was invited to paint a scene from the coronation of King Edward VII - his painting now hangs in Buckingham Palace.

Edwin Austin Abbey died, aged 59, in 1911, leaving his last work incomplete - mural paintings for the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

A few examples of his paintings and drawings:

Please click on images for larger versions.

 Richard III Duke of Gloucester and the Lady Anne

 Detail from above painting

 King Lear - Cordelia's Farewell

 "Sir Galahad is now King of Sarras, and upon a hill he makes a Sacred Place and builds a Golden Tree."  From mural series, "The Quest and Achievement of The Holy Grail" (1895).

 The Penance of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester  
From Shakespeare's Henry VI: Part II, act 2, scene 4. Eleanor, having vainly urged her husband, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the Lord Protector, to usurp the throne of England, has committed the treasonable offense of consulting sorcerers about the length of the king's life. She has been sentenced to three days' public penance walking barefoot through the streets of London. (See here.)

 Harvest Home

 Coronation of King Edward VII


Concentrating mainly on indications relating to his artistic talents. Although there's little information available to shed light on the artist's personality, a page on Abbey at the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame website begins:
Edwin Austin Abbey was that rare union of “fun and purpose.” He was cherished by the many organizations which called him “fellow.” Those who called him “friend” included the most renowned artists, sculptors and authors of his day. But his artwork was his purpose. He illustrated with crisp pen lines, painted with shadowy, mysterious tones and he designed decorative and architecturally sound murals. Every endeavor of his career was totally absorbing of his energy but was executed with grace and humor. Howard Pyle described his contemporary as a “chipper, jocund little fellow, with a merry twinkle of his eyes and a laugh that meant business.”

Born 1 April 1852 in Philadelphia, Penn, USA. (Chart set for 12 noon - Moon and ascendant not as shown.)

His 12* Aries Sun indicates a bright, enthusiastic personality; the planets in later Aries straddle the Aries/Taurus cusp drawing in Venus-ruled Taurus' link to the arts, with Venus itself at 23 Taurus. Jupiter at 22 Scorpio is opposing Venus, or maybe better put, Venus is balancing Jupiter. Jupiter's excesses, in the wrong artistic hands could lead to less delightful artistry than we see in Abbey's work. The innate good taste of Venus balances Jupiter's need for excess and reduces it to the lushness we perceive in his oil paintings. If a passing reader would care to follow the link above to my post on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherood , I recall that there was a Jupiter opposition in those charts too, Abbey's style does closely resemble theirs, as I've already noted.

Abbey's natal Moon could be in either late Leo or early Virgo....hands down I'd guess Leo. His gravitation to illustrating Shakespearean plays, and doing it so well indicates an inborn feel for drama = Leo. On the other hand.....Virgo Moon would represent the artist's obvious discipline and attention to detail.


anyjazz said...

I didn't know this artist. Glad for the introduction. His drawing skill is excellent.

mike said...

Ulp...Twilight...did you cast this chart for 1952 rather than 1852???

Twilight said...

anyjazz~ My pleasure! :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Oooh're right - thank you. this happens because on the stripped down software I'm using now I don't automatically see the data I've input unless I click on an arrow - which I didn't in this case.

I'll do a fresh astro piece now and add it ASAP. It'll prove what happens when we use the wrong chart.....will the wrong chart fit?

mike (again) said...

LOL, Twilight! We have a grand-sextile in effect this morning and afternoon, as long as the Moon opposes Chiron. A grand-sextile equals two inverse grand-trines, six sextiles, and three oppositions. This with a background of the on-going grand square. it's too much energy...a kooky balooky day.

Take a look:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks again for noticing that blatant error. It'll teach me to make sure I check my fingers haven't slipped in future! The fact that either chart could work might seem discomforting, yet....maybe those born exacly 100 years later on same day/place would also show artistic talents. ;-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Oh my! There is a lot going on in the heavens today! That can be my excuse for my careless fingers.

Babies born around mid-day today will be a strange but multi-talented group. ;-)

mike (again) said...

I'm a little jealous of the 1952 chart...I'd like to meet some of those people to see how they turned-out...LOL.

I sure like Abbey's use of light-dark (Chiaroscuro) and his vibrant colors juxtaposed with the drab. Like anyjazz said, Abbey was an unknown to me prior to your post.

He has Mars square Mercury, Pluto (both in Aries), Uranus, Saturn (both in Taurus). I wouldn't expect a “chipper, jocund little fellow, with a merry twinkle of his eyes and a laugh that meant business” from Mars' aspects. Maybe the Venus op Jupiter over-rode Mars' influence...or maybe Abbey was simply an evolved soul that made positive use of his planets.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I'm also drawn to this artist's style. What an amazing gift. And his attention to detail! What incredible focus and patience it must've taken.

I'm always intrigued by what *drives* gifted people. In Edwin's chart, I notice his natal Pluto-Mercury conjunction is square his Mars (powerful energy and ideas!), with the Nodes close to this midpoint. Not only that, his Sun is exactly square the Nodes, apparently(?) adding fuel to his drive for artistic self-expression. Maybe Earth opposite his Sun at 12 Libra (beauty/art provided a healthy outlet for all that powerful T-square energy. Just a thought.:)

I agree with you, Twilight, in that his Venus in Taurus opposite Jupiter in Scorpio must've influenced his gifts. Just goes to show how challenging aspects can be as productive as the easier flowing ones - although his supporting trines and sextiles (including his natal Neptune trine North Node) probably didn't hurt either!

LB said...

mike ~ I have Mars square Pluto and I can be very outgoing and "chipper" but also very focused and intense - depending on the situation.:)

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ As to the "jocund and chipper" quote about Abbey's personality, I see this as definitely describing someone with Jupiterian traits. If we considered his natal chart formation to be a "bucket" or "funnel" shape with Jupiter the "handle" or "spout" that'd work.
(Or am I falling into the trap I so dislike in astrology and making anything mean anything?)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for the extra astrological points, all are fitting. :-) The heavy cluster of planets around a single area of the chart, including his natal Sun, possibly helped in a general way to keep focus steady on his chosen life's work and so to hone his inborn gifts to even higher levels.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I also associate Jupiter with the words jocund and chipper. First I had to look up the word jocund to make sure I knew what it meant.

mike (again) said...

LB - Mars sq Pluto is one thing, but Mars in a tight sq with Mercury and Pluto, and within a few degrees sq of Saturn and Uranus is intense. Not to mention that Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto are all conjunct. Perhaps, as you imply, it gave him ultra focus and ultra intensity toward objectives.

"A letter to him, in 1901, from a lady who remembered him as a very small child and wished, in his later triumphant days, to felicitate with him on his success, tells of very early artistic efforts. 'If I also were an artist,' she wrote, 'I would draw you a picture of a two-year-old baby sitting in a high chair with pencil and paper, drawing omnibuses. On the opposite side of the room a lady embroidering; close beside the baby a little girl attentively watching the baby artist, ever ready to obey the demand of 'More paper, Emma, 'and to hunt and sharpen lost pencils. The baby was your self, the lady was your mother, and the little girl was I.'"