Camouflage: Abbott Handerson Thayer's "Beautiful Law of Nature"

Camouflage: Abbott Handerson Thayer's "Beautiful Law of Nature"
A lecture by William Adair, frame conservator, frame historian, and master gilder, Gold Leaf Studios

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Baird Auditorium
National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC

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The noted 19th-century American artist, Abbott Handerson Thayer, is probably best known for his paintings of child angels or portraits of the likes of Mark Twain and Henry James.

But as a self-proclaimed naturalist, Thayer spent the better part of his life studying and writing about concealing and protective coloration in nature, how the hunter and the hunted both have such coloration, enabling them to be successful at their respective tasks. He regarded this “a beautiful law of nature.” Thayer’s far-reaching discoveries, more than one hundred years ago, are still influential today in everything from psychology to military applications, and have earned him the undisputed title: "the Father of Camouflage.”  

William Adair, will lead us into the fascinating world of Abbott Thayer, including the importance of his relationship with architect Stanford White, Thayer's evolving style of design, his observations about disruptive patterning and countershading, and the techniques he developed to train his eye to disclose what is virtually imperceptible to the untrained viewer.

William Adair is a frame conservator, frame historian, and master gilder. He began his career in frame conservation at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, where he became fascinated with gilding and the history of frames. In 1975, the Smithsonian awarded Adair a grant to travel to Europe to learn about tools and techniques from the few remaining master gilders working in the Renaissance tradition. Adair studied under influential framers and connoisseurs Paul Levi and Henry Heydenryk. In 2003 Levi and Adair collaborated on the repatriation of an important Renaissance altarpiece polyptych to a church in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Adair has curated several frame exhibitions, including the first to take place in America. This 1983 exhibition, titled "The Frame in America, 1700–1900," was sponsored by the American Institute of Architects. Adair's catalogue for the exhibition is still used today as a reference for American frame history. In 1995 he curated a follow-up exhibition entitled, "The Frame in America: 1860–1960," which traveled to museums around the country from 1995–2001. In 1991, the American Academy in Rome awarded Adair the Rome Prize in Design, allowing him to spend six months in Rome immersed in the study of frame design.

Adair writes and lectures on frame history and conservation. He is the founding Director for the International Institute for Frame Study (a non-profit archive) and a founding member of the Society of Gilders. He is also an associate member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Adair holds a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Maryland. 

Color in a New Light is made possible by lead sponsor

Light and Color in ArtAdditional funding is provided by the Shepherd Color Company.