Biography: Born in 1852 in Philadelphia, Edwin Austin Abbey studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Christian Schuessele. He began his career in New York on the staff of Harper Bros. at the age of 19. Three years later, he became a free-lance illustrator before returning to Harper's in 1876. That year, he was so impressed by European and British painters, including the Pre-Raphaelites, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition that he traveled to England in 1878, where he remained for the better part of his career. He became especially recognized for his drawings and paintings of Shakespearean and Victorian subjects.
In England, Abbey continued to illustrate for Harper's publications. He was friendly with many internationally known artists, including John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. He traveled and researched sources intently in the interest of historical exactitude. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1898 and of the National Academy of Design, in 1902. He was chosen to paint the official record of the 1902 coronation of Edward VII. In the 1890s. In his English studio, he undertook the 11-year project of creating murals for the Boston Public Library on the theme of "The Quest for the Holy Grail." He was also commissioned to paint murals for the new state capitol in Harrisburg, PA, but, in 1911, he died before completing the commission, which was finished by John Singer Sargent. Abbey is buried in the churchyard of Old St Andrew's Church in Kingsbury, London.
In 1890, Edwin married Gertrude Mead, a member of a wealthy New York family. After his death, she wrote about his work and donated a collection of his art and archives to Yale University. She also endowed scholarships to support British and American painters.