Yarnall Abbott achieved prominence as a painter, photographer, musician, and writer. He was a key figure in the Philadelphia art community, as well as in Rockport, Massachusetts.
Born in 1870 in Philadelphia, Abbott was interested in music and photography as a youth. He suppressed these artistic tendencies, however, and following in his father's footsteps, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Law School in 1892. He went to work in his father's office, where he continued to practice law for ten years.
During this time, photography remained a serious hobby for Abbott, and he exhibited his work both in the United States and Europe. He was considered a pioneer in experimental photography and was acclaimed as the Best Amateur Photographer in the United States. He received numerous awards from the Philadelphia Photographic Society and became president of the Society of International Photographers.
In 1900, Abbott abandoned law to study art under Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1902, he traveled to Paris to continue his studies under Courtois and Collin at the Academie Colarossi. Upon returning to Philadelphia, Abbott set up his studio. By 1913, he had abandoned photography to concentrate on painting.
Every summer, Abbott traveled to Rockport, MA, where he became well known for his landscape paintings of the region. Soon he began to teach art to the many students who came seeking his instruction. A remodeled waterfront barn became his studio, although he predominantly worked en plein air. He was instrumental in the formation of the Rockport Art Association in 1921, and served as its president from 1924 to 1925.
Abbott was extremely active in the Philadelphia art community as well. In 1936, he became the first artist elected president of the Philadelphia Art Alliance, a position he held until 1938. He was also a member of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Chairman of the Circulating Picture Club. He displayed his work at the Pennsylvania Academy Annual Exhibitions from 1916 to 1938 inclusively.
Abbott excelled in all media that allowed him to be creative - music, photography, painting, and writing. As a writer, he contributed articles on tempera and landscape painting to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The Franklin Inn Club of Philadelphia performed some of his plays.
Yarnall Abbott died June 24, 1938.