“I have more than once walked with my gun into thinning autumn woods behind my setters, and devouring the beauty around me have thought: That’s just how Robert Abbett would paint it.” So wrote George Bird Evans of the wildlife artist Bob Abbett. Michael McIntosh called Abbett “perhaps the finest painter of dogs who ever lived.” Robert Abbett died at home in Bridgewater, Connecticut on June 20 at the age of 89.
Robert Kennedy Abbett was a paint salesman’s son born in 1926 in the meat-packing town of Hammond, Indiana. His earliest interest was photography. Abbett served in the Navy Air Corps in World War II. He was educated at Purdue University, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelors Degree in Science. Abbett studied art at the University of Missouri, where he earned a degree in Fine Arts in 1948.
Abbett initially pursued a career in commercial art in Chicago before moving to Connecticut in 1954 with his wife, Marilyn, where he continued commercial work in New York City. Abbett did cover art for many paperbacks including for a series based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and for popular science fiction.
Inspired by the bucolic New England countryside, and using his knowledge of photography plus the skills he developed as an illustrator, Abbett developed his “impressionistic realism” style of painting and created the dog, wingshooting and angling images that would endear him to a generation of outdoorsmen.
“I found overwhelming inspiration in the hills, fields and wooded acres along with our many wildlife residents. It was a chancy thing to switch to gallery art, but we were very fortunate,” Abbett told an interviewer.
Soon Abbett was exhibiting in galleries from Texas to New York, accepting private commissions and putting his talent to work in numerous conservation art initiatives and also producing three books. For samples of Abbett’s work, visit www.robertabbett.com, Collectors Covey, Russell Fink Gallery, Wild Wings Collection,
From the family’s newspaper obituary: “One of his greatest joys was that his painting enabled him and Marilyn to travel together while researching subjects and photographing clients.
“Bob was modest, genuine and generous of spirit. He was well-liked, had a great sense of humor and light in his eyes. His hobbies included skeet shooting, hunting, photography, flying with his pilot friends, and enjoying the beautiful New England countryside.”
In recent years Abbett suffered from macular degeneration, eventually leading to blindness, and, according to his wife Marilyn, died of Alzheimer’s. Bob Abbett is survived by his wife, daughter Linda and son Robert.