Beth Fowkes Tobin, professor in English and women’s studies and curator for the exhibit “John Abbott: Early Georgia’s Naturalist Artist” will describe what she has learned about Abbot through her research.
Abbot was born in London in 1751 and came to Georgia in 1776 to collect birds, butterflies, and other insects. Although he intended to return to Britain after he had made enough drawings to establish his career as a natural history illustrator, Abbot never left the South, according to Tobin. He lived the rest of his long life in Georgia, where he continued to collect and draw insects and birds into his eighties. He died in 1840, outliving his wife and his son who was childless. Abbot had no family in Georgia to protect his legacy and to keep safe for posterity his personal papers, letters, notebooks, journals, account books, and legal documents. Anything that he might have had in his possession when he died has disappeared. Only a handful of documents remain that can shed light on his life.
“However, we should be grateful that so much of his art survives today along with his notes on birds and insects, the actual specimens he collected, and his letters to naturalists in Britain and the U.S. If we are looking for some sense of the man, who he was as a person, then these are the best documents to examine because they can tell us about the quality of his mind, his relationship with the natural world, and his amazing artistic accomplishments,” Tobin said.
Tobin will speak at 6 p.m. June 23 in the auditorium of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. A reception and tours of the exhibit will follow.