Scaisbrooke Langhorne Abbot (16 January 1908–29 July 1985), painter, was born in Lynchburg and lived his entire professional life there. He was the youngest of four sons and fourth of six children of William Richardson Abbot, a Bedford attorney, and Lucy Lewis Abbot. From childhood Brooke Abbot, as he preferred to be known, wanted to be an artist and to work in Lynchburg. His first instructors in drawing were the noted Lynchburg art teachers, Sallie Lee Hunt Mahood and her daughter Carrie Mahood. Abbot's grandmother Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne Lewis and his aunt Elizabeth Lewis Otey encouraged him in his ambition and enabled him to tour the major museums and galleries in Europe. After attending the Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Abbot went to Paris when he was fifteen to study art under AndrĂ© Victor Edouard Devambez. At age seventeen Abbot entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Abbot returned to Lynchburg and worked there as an artist until World War II. He served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945, originally with the 89th Field Artillery. Wounded on Guadalcanal, he was sent to New Zealand for hospitalization. He spent part of the war as a medical illustrator for the 39th General Hospital. When he returned to Lynchburg, Abbot resumed his artistic career, and he became the most popular portrait painter in the area. He went elsewhere when commissions required but continued to live and work in Lynchburg, where he specialized in painting portraits of local citizens. His likenesses of children were especially sought after. He worked in a contemporary, Postimpressionist style that employed bright colors to produce paintings radiating great warmth. For his own pleasure he frequently sketched relatives and friends and painted floral still lifes. His works included murals, perhaps the most notable being one for the old post office in Lynchburg, and he painted theater scenery for the local little theater, in which he sometimes acted. A gregarious man, he was known also for his wit and humor.

Many of Abbot's paintings are privately owned, and some are unsigned. Others belong to the Virginia Historical Society, the American Philosophical Society, the University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University, and the Albemarle County courthouse, for which he did a notable set of portraits of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Abbot painted on private commission and never entered any competitions or mounted any special exhibitions, so that he was not widely known outside of the Virginia Piedmont or the large circle of his family and friends. Although he was demanding of his subjects during the many hours of posing required for portraits, he often developed a special rapport with children, whom he permitted to call him "Brookie." Some of his young subjects returned to visit so often that Abbot, a bachelor who enjoyed the company of the youngsters, eventually established Thursday afternoon "at homes" for children. Brooke Abbot painted until the day that he died of cancer on 29 July 1985. He was buried in Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Forest, Bedford County.


Sources Consulted:
Biographical and family history information in archives of Lynchburg Historical Foundation, corroborated by sister Catherine Abbot Johnson and cousin Elizabeth O. Watson; correspondence, sketches, and photographs in Scaisbrooke Langhorne Abbot Papers, Jones Memorial Library, Lynchburg, Va.; feature article in Lynchburg News, 26 Sept. 1982 (portrait); Magazine of Albemarle County History 12 (1951–1952): 46; two self-portraits in possession of Catherine Abbot Johnson, Lynchburg; obituaries in Lynchburg News and Lynchburg Daily Advance, both 31 July 1985.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by R. Lewis Wright.

How to cite this page:
R. Lewis Wright,"Scaisbrooke Langhorne Abbot (1908–1985)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 1999 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Abbot_Scaisbrooke_Langhorne, accessed [today's date]).


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