Abbott Fuller Graves was an American painter and illustrator who specialized in decorative open air garden paintings and floral still lifes. His use of thick brushstrokes, bright colors, and natural light shows the influence of European impressionism.
Graves was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1859, the son of James Griswold Graves and Eliza Nicholls (Fuller). Hoping to become an architect, Graves attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but did not graduate. Graves went to Paris and Italy in 1884 to refine his skills as a flower painter. In Europe, he roomed with Edmund C. Tarbell. After returning to Boston in 1885, Graves became a teacher at the Cowles Art School, where his friend Childe Hassam was also on the faculty. The two painters undoubtedly influenced one another. In 1887, Graves returned to Paris to study figure painting at the Academie Julien.
Graves returned to Boston in 1891, and lived in the coastal town of Kennebunkport, Maine, where he taught painting classes in oil and watercolor. He continued to visit there in later years, painting genre scenes featuring farmers, fishermen, firemen and old sea captains of Kennebunkport. Many of his portrayals of small-town life were reproduced on calendars and postcards.
After 1891, the majority of Graves's works depict gardens and floral landscapes, some including female figures. Some portray exotic gardens of Spain and South America. In 1891, he opened his own art school in Boston. The school later moved to Kennebunk, Maine. From 1902 to 1905, Graves was employed as a commercial illustrator for magazines and studied at the Académie Vitti in Paris. After 1922, Graves spent his winters in New York City, where he belonged to such organizations as the National Academy of Design, the National Arts Club, the Salmagundi Club and Allied Artists of America.
Examples of Graves’s work can be found in public and private collections across the country, including the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York; the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine; Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana; the Hermitage Foundation Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; and the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey.