Great Pen And Ink Artists, Part 3: Edwin Austin Abbey

Edwin Austin Abbey in his studio

American artist and illustrator Edwin Austin Abbey was among the most respected, liked and admired artists of his day both by his colleagues and the public. He’s been a particular favorite of mine for many years. Abbey was equally excellent in pen and ink, drawing in dry media and oil painting. Although born in the United States, he spent much of his adult life in England, both in London and in a fairly modest “stately home” in the Cotswold town of Broadway. Visitors and friends included John Singer Sargent and author Henry James, both good friends of Abbey’s. Dinner get-togethers included dressing up in vintage clothing going back to the 18th century from Abbey’s large collection. Sargent’s famous painting “Carnation Lily, Lily Rose” was painted in the backyard garden of Abbey’s home, often in front of an audience that happily rushed around getting the models and props ready since the dusk light that Sargent was painting only lasted a short time each evening.

Abbey is still probably best known for the oil paintings, sometimes quite large, of scenes from the plays of Shakespeare. But what I’m interested in here is his exquisite pen and ink work. I have the good fortune to own the two volume biography about him that was writing posthumously by writer/essayist E.V. Lucas and published in 1921. All the images in this post are scanned from it. Because the books are fragile I had to very careful in the scanning not to damage the spine so the art isn’t presented as well as I would like but a google search will probably bring up better ones.

Abbey’s home in Broadway, England.
Figure study for a painting from a live model wearing authentic period clothes
Pen and ink book illustration
A typical example of Abbey’s superb finished pen and ink work
Another pen and ink illustration

Finally, here are a number of his wonderful loose pen and ink sketches, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Once again, please forgive the less that great scans.

I haven’t been able to find out what nib(s) Abbey used but plan to do some more research. In the meantime if you want to see more, google his name, click on “Images” and feast your eyes.

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