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The Cover
February 23, 2011


JAMA. 2011;305(8):748. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.11

Appearing unfinished, Self-portrait (cover ) maintains its sense of pride and revels in the aura of its creator's ego. Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) painted many self-portraits, which now chronicle how the artist matured and changed, in physiognomy and in technique. The balding, mustachioed figure, whose countenance glares at its audience, reflects the mature Thayer. Born in Boston to a Harvard-educated physician and his wife, Thayer lived his childhood years in rural New Hampshire; he displayed an early interest in, and talent for, hunting, taxidermy, and watercolor depictions of his treasures. His later education included Boston's Chauncy Hall School (founded by his grandfather), the Brooklyn Art School, and the National Academy of Design. The painter, during his 4-year Parisian honeymoon with Kate Bloede Thayer, studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme. City living, however, held no charm for the eccentric Thayer: he and his family—including second wife Emma—moved permanently in 1901, after 20 years of summer use, to a cabin in Dublin, New Hampshire. There, on property owned by one of Thayer's female patrons and art students, the clan subsisted in a dwelling without running water, without heat, and without conventional sleeping quarters.