Artist: Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W: 76.3 x 51 cm (30 1/16 x 20 1/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

portrait, United States, woman

To 1890
N.E. Montross (1849-1932), New York to 1890 [1]

From 1890 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from N.E. Montross in February, 1890 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Voucher of February 1, 1890, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

N.E. Montross (C.L. Freer source) 1849-1932
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


The handsome Clara Adelaide May (1872-1946) posed for this canvas that Thayer simply called "Head." With that title, he sought to endow his female figure with a monumentality that one contemporary called "the heroic dignity of the Roman matron of legend." Despite Thayer's allusion to classical sources, viewers at the time saw this canvas as a portrait that revealed the young woman's dignified personality. In fact, she was a neighbor girl whom the artist saw often at the summer art colony in Dublin, New Hampshire.

(Quotation from Royal Cortissoz, "Personal Memories," The Arts, [a memorial issue on the artist's death], (June-July 1921))

Published References
  • Prizes for American Artists., October 14, 1890. p. 1.
  • Thomas B. Brumbaugh. An Artist and His Model: Abbott H. Thayer and Clara May. vol. 10, May 1978. p. 25, fig. 2.
  • Nichols Clark. Charles Lang Freer: An American Aesthete in the Gilded Era. vol. 11, no. 4 New York, October 1979. p. 56, fig. 3.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. pp. 155-6, fig. 104.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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