September 14, 2003 by

Herbert Abrams


Categories: Artists

Herbert E. Abrams, a prolific artist famous for painting the portraits of U.S. presidents, died on Aug. 29 of prostate cancer. He was 82.

Abrams studied at the Norwich Art School then became a pilot during World War II. During his time in the service, he redesigned the Army Air Force’s aircraft insignia, which has appeared on every plane since 1942. Later, he taught art classes at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

After the war, Abrams studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students’ League in New York City. While sitting on a bench in Greenwich Village, he received $35 for his first portrait commission. This sparked a four-decade career during which Abrams completed over 400 paintings.

Although he painted famous people, like astronaut Buzz Aldrin and playwright Arthur Miller, Abrams was best known for doing portraits of President George H.W. Bush and President Jimmy Carter.

51 Responses to Herbert Abrams

  1. Faye Abrams

    Herbert E. Abrams was my grandfather. He was more than just an artist… he was a philosipher. He taught me so much about the many ways to look at objects and objections. I hope to carry on his legacy.

  2. Eve

    I came across a piece he did (reproduction) at a garage sale and fell in love with it immediately – it is a very dark/gothic shadowy piece containing a sword, books with a horse sitting on them, a wine glass and a helmet – VERY BEAUTIFUL – lots of red. I found this site while researching the piece. It is gorgeous and I am looking forward to finding out more about him! Thanks.

  3. Joyce Connor

    My father-in-law was a lifelong friend and student of Herb Abrams. The original piece mentioned in the Dec. 13 posting, “The Helmet” by Abrams, is a proud possession of our family, as are many other fine paintings he created. We are so fortunate to behold these works on a daily basis! What a master!

  4. melody wilson

    i have a print from abrams and im trying to research its value if any and if its the same
    artist can anyone help me it belonged to my
    grandmother for many years and after she past
    it was given to me by my mother and ive had it
    in my home for many years if anyone can help i
    would be grateful.

  5. jackie

    i have an original oil painting signed by abrams and trying to research the value of it. it is still in it original wood frame. i think its called the helmet can anyone help me

  6. Joyce Connor

    To person who posted Feb. 9: Apparently there were several paintings made from the same subject. Often artists do this. Our family has an Abrams painting of The Helmet, as you do. I have been unsuccessful so far in finding someone to appraise. Have had no luck in this from ASOPA or Portraits, Inc. (Abrams was a famous portrait painter.) Please post if you are able to find a bonafide appraiser of your Abrams work. I’d be interested to know who to contact.

  7. Nada Madara

    I found a painting its called Forsynthia signed by Herbert Abrams. Its in a wood frame and looks vintage. Anyone ever heard of this or knows the value please email me allso how can I tell if its a reproduction? thanks Nada

  8. Roger M. Galuska

    I am a former journalist, now a potter in New Hampshire. About 28 years ago, I interviewed Herbert Abrams at his home in Connecticut, when I was a feature writer on the Danbury News-Times.
    Although as mentioned in these comments, he is best known for his portraits of presidents, he had done some stunning still-life paintings.
    He happened to have a lithograph of one of them there for him to look over.
    It is just a beautiful composition, with a silver teapot, books, pink hydrangea and a bas-relief of a Greek or Roman horseman.
    Mr. Abrams gave me that lithograph, and signed it both with “artist’s proof” and his name. As he did it, he told me, “It will be worth more that way.”
    I still recall that with a chuckle.
    A friend of mine matted it with a linen matte and framed it. I have it hanging in my home in New Hampshire now.
    I have both the story I did of Mr. Abrams with the picture I took, and his obituary from The Boston Globe, and put them in an envelope with the story of how I came to have this print, as a history for whomever has it next.
    I’m very glad to have found this site.

    • Mikki Van Buren

      where can i find the article of the interview? would love to read it or print it out as a copy for my family’s history. I didn’t know him personally but he is my relative and I’d just love to know more.

  9. Thomas

    A few months ago I attended a Skinner’s Inc Discovery auction. I purchased an oil painting that I loved because of its extraordinary play of light through haze/fog. It is a street scene, oil on hardboard,about 24×20 depicting light coming through a large tree, with telephone poles receding along the street. It is either dusk or dawn. It is a hauntingly beautiful painting.Several days after getting the painting home, I did some web research on the piece which fully signed. I learned that Mr. Abrams had died about two days after I purchased the painting. I am pleased to own it and wonder if there are other landscape paintings out there. This one is truly special.

  10. Doug Hayduk

    Hello: I possess an original oil on canvas, approx. 20″ x 24″, landscape scene of the Grand Tetons in WY, signed “Herbert E. Abrams ’53”. My father was a student at West Point Military Academy in the 40s and was perhaps a student or acquaintance of Mr. Abrams. I wonder if anyone can comment on such a painting and approx. value. Thanks. Doug

  11. Evelyn R. Fowler

    Herb Abrams and I went to Hartford High (HPHS) at the same time, and we were both in the Sketch Club. We both went to Pratt Institute, and since he was a year behind me he was going to be drafted (WW11), so I invited him to my senior prom, in 1942. He, his friend Herb Stoltz who became art aditor of a well known magazine, and I were friends in Pratt. Herb Abrams was very good looking, tall, with beautiful wavy blond hair. We decided we’d look great together at the prom-I had dark curly hair, and we did. He came to mind because my grandson is going to his H.S. senior prom at the same hotel we had gone to, about 60 years earlier. I ran into Herb twice, years later; the first time during his Village period, and still later at a political gettogether in New Haven.

  12. R.J

    I have a little painting of a carnation in a silver ale can ( signed H . E Abrams on hard board and looks like it had a wax seal on the back. I love fine paintings and can’t comprehend how its possible to paint a picture that looks like a photogragh. How can i find out how old it is so i can have some more details with it. Email any info Thank you

  13. Carol Gay Sklenar

    Weird, I just found a print of a Herbert E Abrams painting by the side of the road on the edge of a grassy yard. Funny thing is that I think it is a plant called “golden rain” a still life, with a book near by. I’ve seen this plant in Europe when I was there. I saw it in Hernhutt Germany in Count Zinzindorf’s celebration chapel. The night before I was praying psalams 133 over our community. This is a sign of God’s promise to pour out His Spirit in our community, which will come from the East Coast first where Herbert is from. Weird, God is so Good. I believe the Lord gave it to me as a sign that He will fulfill his promise of pouring out His Holy Spirit on all flesh in the end-times. Feed back welcome

  14. myrna watters

    I also found a painting at a garage sale called Forsynthia signed by Herbert Abrams. Its in a wood frame and looks vintage. Anyone ever heard of this or knows the value please email me also how can I tell if its a reproduction? email:

  15. Mikki Currado

    I am so proud to be a great niece of Herbert Abrams. My grandmother Helen Abrams Rehmer was his sister. Helen’s daughter Irene was my mother. I remember going to Herbert’s house in Connecticut, when I was around 16, for my great grandmother’s 100th birthday party. What a beautiful, quaint home they had. The one room I remember, was filled with all of his paintings. It was at that time, that I found out what a talented man he really was. Herb would always send my mother a Christmas card, every year, with a note of best wishes, from where ever he was, at that holiday. My mother has always kept me abreast of his achievements, over the years and I am so proud that I am a descendent of such a fine man. There were so many times that I wished that I could have met him again. We apologize that we missed his memorial, however, we sent our thoughts and prayers for his family.

    • Mikki Van Buren

      Aunt Mikki, I just was reading a few things about him and We should talk sometime (email or whatever we can do). I’d like to get to know the family a lot more then I have growing up. Living farther away and having parents who would not like the drive (even though it wasn’t that far at the time) we didn’t know a lot about anyone growing up and that makes me sad.

      Love ya,

  16. Curt Colvin

    My wife and I have recently received a painting by Herbert E. Abrams, from her grandmother. And we where wondering about the worth and if the painting is an original or a print. The painting is named “Forsythia” and its in the orginial frame. Please E-mail with info.

  17. Kevin Hopkins

    I knew the Abrams family from years ago attending Rumsey Hall School. He was a wonderful parent and his wife was our music teacher at the school. Mr. Abrams painted several pictures of family members which we enjoy to this day. Mr. Abrams ability to capture the person and bring them to life on canvas is truely amasing. Our thoughts are with your family!

  18. topaz

    I also have a print of “The Helmet”. I am wondering if anyone has any information on it as a work of art and regarding its significance and meaning. My parents had the print in their home for decades and it has sort of fallen into my possession. As a child, I conjectured as to its meaning. Now that it is mine, I would love to know more about it.
    Thanks in advance.

  19. Rip Westmoreland

    I am looking at a wonderful painting Herb did of my father General William Westmoreland and General Creighton Abrams in 1972. Herb was always a great friend to my family. He painted my grandfather, Col. E. R. Van Deusen and Herb himself (according to my mom) said it was his best portrait painting. To see this you had to know my grandfather and indeed it is a fantastic portrait. He also did my dad (formal and informal) and a formal portrait of my mom and one of my family, including our dog hannah. The painting of my father and Abrams is called “A conference of Generals and I think it’s a great painting.

  20. Louise Fahey

    While my husband, a careen army officer, was stationeed at West Point…I went every Thursday night at 7 pm and took a class from Mr. Abrams…..the cost was (the best I can remember) $3.00 for a lesson…or it might have been for a month! Do recall him raising the price 50 cents because his daughter’s piano lesson had gone up that much. The years were around the late 60’s. He had just finished the magnificent portrait of General Westmoreland. We all learned to paint quite well..I am 79 years old now, still painting. I will always be grateful to have meet and known Mr. Abrams. Sincerely, Louise Fahey

  21. Jennifer Almquist

    Herb Abrams was a dear friend of our family. We will always miss him. I had the good fortune of taking a few painting classes with him in Warren, CT where we still live today. When I was a teenager Herb painted a portrait of me. I had long blond hair and was wearing a blue Indian shirt embroidered with white. I am holding a book and there is a guitar leaning near me. My parents dearly wanted the painting, but it was out of reach! I understand that it was sold to a doctor in NJ who displayed it in his office. I have always dreamt of finding the owner and asking for a print of the painting (or, in a perfect world, a chance to buy it back!). If you are out there in cyberspace somewhere, please communicate! I dream on.

  22. Virginia A. Ross

    I was a student of Herb Abrams in the classes he taught at West Point in the mid sixties and have many wonderful memories of his unique method of painting and teaching. He was an inspiration to all of his students. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing–the art world has lost one of its truly fine artists. I recall that he planned to make a video demonstrating his method of painting, as well as writing a book about his art teacher at Art Students” League, Frank Vincent Dumont, and would be grateful if I could find a source for either. I also, would enjoy hearing from other students in his classes at West Point.

  23. John Harden

    I have a painting done by mr abrams it is call forsythia. I think it is a copy and i need to know how to tell. I purchased it at a auction and it also has a old looking frame on it also. And if any one can tell me what it is worth it would be helpfull. Thanks John Harden

  24. Lori Grogan

    I think of my uncle Herb many times when I look at his paintings that my mom, Louise, gave me before her passing. I wished I could have known him more but we moved to Georgia when I was in my teens. My mom loved her brother and his family very much and she told me how much it mean’t to her for him to bring these paintings to her many years ago. I brought out one of his paintings above my fireplace shortly before his passing. I hope that I can paint one day when I retire. My love to the family.

    • Mikki Van Buren

      I am a descendant of Louise’s oldest sister Helen. (She was my Great Grandmother). Any info you have (or are willing to tell) about any relatives are wonderful. I love to hear stories about them. Talents/what they were known and loved for (even if not famous). And (unfortunately) deaths. I am working on family history and even she’s a Great Aunt, she’s still family.


      (Helen married Ernest William Hans Albert Rehmer, who had Irene Elizabeth Rehmer (who married William Maxwell Saul- then remarried Alcime Joseph Roberts, who adopted all but 1 child who was married at the time) and Irene had Marshall Kent Saul (later changed to Roberts) and that’s where I come from. My maiden name is Roberts. Married name of Van Buren.

  25. richard Doten

    I have got the forsythia painting he did its really big, it must be a reproduction of his work but I love it, I never heard of him before I looked him up on here,I am so glad I have one of his painting he was very talented. I have tried to find pictures on here of his painting but can’t find any, if someone that reads this can tell me where I would be most happy

  26. Cheryl Wiencko Haley

    One of the fist memories I have of my Great Uncle Herb is when he was showing me that I had a quarter behind my ear! He amused the children during a Thanksgiving gathering at his parent’s house by doing magic tricks.After that, I would refer to him as “the magician.” (My mom would say we were going to “the lake” and I would ask if “the magician” would be there.)
    I remember a small Christmas gift I received from Aunt Lois and Uncle Herb… a magic red ball. They both watched as I unwrapped a small gift inside the ball, with another smaller ball inside, with another gift inside, and so on and so on. I had never seen such a gift before (or after)!
    I was about 10 years old when my mom and I took a train trip from CT to NY to visit Uncle Herb and his lovely wife, Lois. We met him him in The Village that day as he was a part of an outdoor art show. My first Art show.
    At family gatherings, if he and his wife attended, I sat in awe, absorbing the stories of their travels and the famous people they had met and socialized with at home and away. He was so articulate and talented; I admired him greatly. His sister Helen was my grandmother, but he was soooo different than she. With no disrespect intended to my late grandmother, I saw Herb as one of the “educated” branches of that family tree!
    I have no paintings done by him, but I have beautiful memories. The last time I saw him and Aunt Lois, they were dancing gracefully across the dance floor at my brother’s wedding in Boston.
    I’ve seen some of his paintings on display in Washington D.C. His sister, my Great Aunt Ann, once showed me an album she kept with large photos of his paintings. I was amazed at his subject diversity!
    The subject that personally touched my heart was of his mother, my great grandmother, Matilda Abrams.
    I miss him terribly, but see his glowing smile and his beautiful white hair in my mind.

  27. Brenda Wiencko Donovan

    I was just reading the tributes to Herb Abrams who I too was honored to have as my Great Uncle. The memories that have are certainly special. Yes, I vaguely recall the quarter trick but more that my sister then could entertain me over and over again my the trick. I too, remember the trip to The Village where Uncle Herb had his easel on the sidewalk while he painted. He was bigger than life t me and he was so awe inspiring even at my young age.
    I recall when I went back to college for art I wrote to Uncle Herb for advise. I was so humbled by hisreplay, his wisdom, and his generous words of encouragement. I did follow my passion and his advice and finished completing two BFA’s and a masters in Art Ed. I recall taking a trip from my home on Cape Cod I with my family to CT for a visit to Uncle herb and Aunt Lois’s. The memories that come immediately to my mind; my daughter loving Aunt Lois’s asparagus steamer and the butter to dip them in, and how I loved the studio and the comforting smell of the linseed oil mixed with turp ummmm I can still bring the creative smell to my nose. i also recall the great information that Uncle Herbie told me about really seeing art by turning around and looking at the world through your legs. I do that when I can’t see the colours. He also told me to look at art, then see art by putting my hand to my eye as if it were a spyglass and see art. The visit was too short and never again. We spoke several times after that as I was the care giver to his elder sister Anna Florentine Abrams Kreimendahl. Sadly, she passed away in 1998 after losing her battle to Dementia. She so loved her bother and was so very proud of him She kept ever article, every card, every story about him and made sure everyone who crossed her path knew about Herb and Lois. Funny she rarely said Herb without Lois I do believe they were one.
    My Aunt was most generous as she gave me several pieces of Uncle Herb’s work of which I NEVER will sell although, I have often thought I would like to eventually donate them to a museum where his work can be loved and enjoyed by many and for eternity. I could go on about how I feel when I look at his work and how he continues to inspire me. I live in Boston in an Artist loft with my easel up and with a canvas on it at all times. Thank you Uncle Herbie for your kind words of encouragement, your words of wisdom but most of all, for leaving the world more beautiful by the art you left all to see. May God Bless Your Family.
    Brenda Wiencko Donovan

  28. JMD

    I have a painting called “Forsythia abrams” Painted by Herbert E. Abrams. An oil paint, wooded frame, It has a book on the side, kind puzzled what kind of book was that and a bottle on the other side. Not selling just checking its history, I believe its an indoor painting but where and who was on that place. One thing I like on this painting when you first look at its all flowers but if you go nearby you’ll see the beauty and art of an artist.

  29. betty tate


  30. L. Flatt

    Today, I bought an original oil painting by Herbert E. Abrams at an estate sale in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas. The painting is titled “Still Life with Plums”, is signed, and from 1958. A very nice piece. Thank you Mr. Abrams.

  31. Evelyn Cunningham

    My teacher was a friend and fellow student of Herb Abrams while
    they took classes from Frank Vincent DuMond at The Art Students League in NY. He said that Herb was writing a book on Frank Vincent DuMond entitled LIGHT INTO ART. Does anyone know if this book was published or if there is a manuscript for it somewhere that should be published? I am interested in obtaining a copy of this book or manuscript. Also, it there is a video of Herbert Abrams teaching I would love a copy of that also.
    Herbert Abrams wrote an Article on DuMond in the March 1974
    issue of American Artist where he talks about DuMond.
    I read the article and have remorse of not ever having the privilege of meeting such a great artist and human being.
    I hope someday a book with all his paintings becomes available.
    Until then we all can meet him through his art and legacy.

  32. Carol Tresky

    can someon help me find what my painting is worth, it is the oil forsythia painting on a wooden table. I would like information on this painting.

  33. Kathy Abrams Bindert

    Herbert Abrams was my father. He did love forsythia and usually painted at least one large arrangement each spring. If you have one with a rough wood frame, he probably made your frame as well. He liked to combine textures, and liked the rough wood with the flowers. He usually combined some shiny metal in for contrast. He also did love that helmet, although those paintings were before my time. There are not very many reproductions of his work. If it has his signature, it’s probably his.

    • Deborah

      Thank you so much for your information, I have a forsythia pictuce but it is signed at the top. I never noticed the bright silver pot, and a black pot with a handle and a book laying beside them with flowers all around it.

  34. Bonnie

    I have obtained a framed oil painting by Herbert E. Abrams titled Forsynthia. It is a large painting measuring 46-3/8 by 36-1/2. I am interested in finding its value, if any. Is there someone out there looking for his works that would like to have this one? Please contact me with any information available. Thank you, Bonnie

  35. Linda Madin

    My father, John Albert, was one of Herb’s roommates while studying at Pratt Institute after the war. My Dad just turned 90, and he and my Mom have a large portrait that Herb did of my father in the mid 40’s, I assume while they were students. It is a beautiful likeness that our family will treasure forever. Though I have lived in CT sinc 1975,I regret never meeting Mr. Abrams. I also remember Christmas cards my parents received that were drawn by Herb. He was very talented man and has left a wonderful legacy of works that many generations to come will enjoy and be inspired by.

  36. elizabeth

    I have a oil painting of a bible and table sighned from herbert e abrams that has been on my wall for 23 years, my husband bought it for me when we first got married. please contact me.

  37. joyce Connor

    I posted a message above in 2004. My father-in-law, Lieutenant General Albert O. Connor, studied art at West Point with Herb. They became lifelong friends. We have four Abrams paintings including a portrait of my father-in-law. It’s truly Old Master quality. My father-in-law was a prolific painter in Hilton Head for years. I also paint oils. As we are downsizing our house, I am forced to give up the original Abrams work of The Helmet, shown with a piece of Greek or Roman bas relief, a sleek glass of wine and some fruit. It’s an incredible work of large scale. If anyone is interested in purchasing, please contact me and I will make you a good price. I want it to go to an Abrams fan.

  38. martha bradley

    I have the forsythia print with Mr. Abrams signature. I would love to find out if it is an orignal or reproduction. If you have information I would like to here from you. I know it’s been in my family for many years.

  39. elizabeth

    So sorry to here of his death; but I also have an original painting of herbert E.Abrams that was signed by him, my husband bought it for me as a wedding gift for our home from a thrift store 24 years ago. it is about three foot by five foot. if any one is interested please contact me.

  40. Cathy Coble

    I acquired a painting it may be a lithograph of Mr. Abrams signed by him and a date next to his name of 61. On the back is a #G5197 or G519’1 – 163 and says below it Helmet & Gun #2. The painting appears somewhat gothic with an open book
    (white border around the pages that are open in the book), with 3 horse heads carved on a stone above the book,(they are sitting right above the book), a helmet beside the book to the left (appears to be gladiator or chariot racing helmet),(facing picture) and a flint lock pistol lying with the butt on the book on the right (facing picture). I am looking for information on this particular picture and also the worth of the picture. If anyone can help me it would be greatly appreciated. I found it at a garage and found it quite interesting, so I bought it!! Please anyone that can assist me, please feel free to email me!!!!

  41. Nancy Bryson

    My father, Jerry Shenker , was an owner of Ken-Mont/Ken-Wood camps in Kent, CT. He purchased many painting from Mr. Abrams. He also commissioned Mr. Abrams to do a painting of my daughters about 35 years ago. I have an original oil painting of forsythia on a 42×40 canvas. It also has a dark antique looking frame. I too am interested in its value. Is there anyone who can tell me who to get in touch with??? He was a most kind and gentle man, who came to my home and spent several days w/ my daughters before doing a painting of them.
    Nancy Bryson

  42. Shona Martin

    I too have a painting of Forsythia that is numbered. If anyone has obtained information on value, history or where to obtain information, I would be thrilled to hear.

  43. Rosalind L. Houser

    Thank You so much Kathy,you have really inspired a good feeling in me. I have the helmet and as I touch this painting I feel your dad did paint this with much pleasure. Please tell us as much as you can remember about your dad. Even though its before my time it is so good to feel connected to such a talented and special person. The Helmet is so detailed and the whole painting each item is so real how he caputured each item to look like the actual material it was made of I feel so blessed to own this portrait and to be able to communicate with you thanks again may god truly bless you and all of Mr. Abrams family.

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