Abbotsford commission for US artist

American artist Richard Schmid has been turning his talents to Abbotsford House for his latest commission.

One of the leading figures in American realist art, Mr Schmid was at the home of novelist Sir Walter Scott this week to prepare sketches for the commission – a 24” by 48” oil-on-canvas painting of the historic house.

Mr Schmid is considered among his peers to be one of the most influential realist artists working today and the Chicago-born painter has been commissioned to create the work by an American philanthropic foundation.

The painting will eventually hang in the new visitor reception building at Abbotsford, which is due to be constructed as part of a £14million redevelopment.

The regeneration project aims to transform Abbotsford into a world-class visitor attraction that will help safeguard the house, its contents and Sir Walter Scott’s legacy for future generations.

Mr Schmid studied classical techniques under William H. Mosby at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Throughout his distinguished career, as painter and teacher, he has won nearly every major art award in the United States, including the prestigious American watercolor gold medal and the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Abbotsford Trust chief executive Jason Dyer says the organisation is delighted with what it called the “exceptionally generous donation” of the new artwork.

“To have work by an artist of the caliber of Richard Schmid amongst our collections is a real coup and we greatly enjoyed his visit when he joined a long list of significant figures from the art and literary world to have come to this historic property,” said Mr Dyer this week.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the finished work when it arrives at Abbotsford next year to be hung in our new visitor centre.”

The president of the charitable foundation involved in the commissioning of the new painting is Kansas lawyer Doug Pringle, who first visited Abbotsford as a teenager in the 1960s.

During his visit he was invited in for tea by one of Scott’s descendants, Mrs Patricia Maxwell Scott, who lived in the house at the time.

On his return home to the United States, Doug received a parcel and letter from Mrs Maxwell Scott containing a copy of a book by Washington Irving, a friend of Sir Walter Scott, who had visited Abbotsford in 1817.

Sir Walter Scott was the first English-language author to have an international career with his works translated into over 30 languages and avidly read from Scandinavia, Italy and Moscow to the American frontier.

Following the death of the last of his descendants to live in the house, Abbotsford came into the care of the Abbotsford Trust which began the task of raising the £14million required to secure its future.

More than £10million has been raised to date, leaving £4million outstanding and the trust’s fundraising drive continues.