Mar 1, 2011

Edwin Austin Abbey’s The Quest for the Holy Grail

In the pages above and below please find reproductions of Edwin Austin Abbey’s series of fifteen paintings “The Quest for the Holy Grail.”  Currently these paintings are incorporated into the Abbey Room at the Boston Public Library.  They haven’t, to my knowledge, been reproduced in any print or art book, and I have only found low rez pictures of the full cycle on a single obscure web page.

So, with the help of an intrepid photography student in the Boston area, I had the Abbey Room paintings photographed and applied my fledgling Photoshop skills to the RAW image files.  I have posted the results in the following pages, along with a brief description of each of the paintings penned, I believe, by Henry James.

I am also including the original photos of the paintings.


  • Fantastic work! I just came across this beautiful mural at the Library today while looking for the Sargent mural, and I have to say I was far more impressed by the Abbey work – I mistook it for Sargent as well at first but I suppose that’s not unusual given they were contemporaries.

    I can’t believe the library doesn’t even have a postcard available of the Abbey mural (surely missing a chance there). You’ve done a great job replicating the vibrancy of colour of the original 🙂 Much better than the only other image of the mural I found on the Nat Geo website, and definitely better than the snaps I took with my phone….
    Any chance of hi-res versions of the pictures (especially the Castle of the Maidens and the Golden Tree)?

    • Thanks Baybeelion. I can’t post higher resolutions with this WordPress install, unfortunately, unless you can recommend an install that allows hi-rez?

  • Hello,
    I have come across a print of “the departure” in Abbey Grail series. It is in black and white and appears to be a print of the original. Never saw anything like it. In all rights, it appears to be a print dated 1907 and signed with the name “Cameron” on it. There are more details to add on this but since I only got a quick glimpse of this beauty, I cannot elaborate on the extensive writing on the left corner of the piece. I know you do not believe this piece to have been printed, not to mention, in black and white but I believe I have found it. Please contact me. I would be willing to send you a photo or two of the actual piece. This could be an actual print from the original ….its Striking!
    Thank you,
    Sholeh Davis

  • Wow! Thanks for sharing! I have a friend who has a black and white framed print of “Castle of the Maidens”. The print has been a mystery until now! We’ve simply wondered where/what the original painting was as I’ve never been able to match the image online until now. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Greetings –
    May I have your permission to use your renderings of Abbey’s Frieze in an e-book that I am working on for the Amazon Kindle? It’s “The Legend of the Holy Grail” published in 1904 based on Abbey’s mural.

    Your photoshopped images would be a fine addition. I’d be sure to give you credit.

    (There’s very little money involved. Public Domain ebooks don’t bring in much…I do it as a hobby.)

    Thank – Ed Baxter

    • Sure thing, Ed.

      • Thank you very much –

        Credit to: Bill Woodcock ?

        • Yes, thank you.

      • OK – Here’s a link to the Kindle e-book, available on Amazon.
        Again, thanks for your fine work, and you permission to use your illustrations.
        best regards, Ed Baxter

  • Can you tell me a prints of “Galahad the Deliverer” I have one which seems to be very old
    I bought at auction in an old frame with a plate on the frame. Given by Library Club and Booster Club 1929
    Thank you,

    • Hi John–did you mean sell you a print, or tell you something about one?

  • Reproductions in oil of the “Holy Grail Series” once hung in the third floor hallway of Emerson High School in Gary, Indiana. They are now in storage and under the control of the Gary School Corporation. I would like to include them on an Emerson web site and, in the near future, reproduce them in a history of the school, which opened in 1909. Of course, I would give full credit to the photographer.

    As in the above request, this is a hobby and is done primarily as a service to the graduates of Emerson whose art collection has been unavailable for viewing since 2008.

    I thank you for your consideration.

    • Hi Kendall, feel free to do so.

  • I have a book only engravings dated 1914,( when it was given to someone) have all 15 in the book. they are not set into the book, just a binder, pictures are dated 1897 and the , I guess rare book, if you want images le me know,

  • I believe I may have the original painting g of Edwin. Abbey oath of night hood . It is sigh ex and is in a wooden frame with 2 gold colored plaques on the frame .

  • I like the original photos and wish there were more which includes something of the interior of the room — the setting for the paintings. What a beautiful library!

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The year after Connecticut Yankee came out, Edwin Austin Abbey, another American expatriate painter, was commissioned to create a 15 panel mural for the Book Delivery Room at the new Boston Public Library. The subject he chose was "The Quest for the Holy Grail."