Born in 1852 in Philadelphia, PA, Edwin Austin Abbey studied for a short period of time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with Christian Schuessele. At the age of 14 he took a position as an illustrator for Harper and Brothers Publishing Company. With the hope of becoming a large scale history painter, he moved to England in the late 1870s. He was soon admitted to the Pre-Raphaelites and elected to the Royal Academy. Although he remained in England, he refused to give up his American citizenship.
During the 1890s, he worked on The Quest for the Holy Grail for the Boston Public Library which was installed in 1895. He also completed several murals for the Pennsylvania State Capital, and painted the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. While working on the Reading of the Declaration of Independence Mural for the State Capital in 1911, he was diagnosed with cancer. While he was still alive most of the work was completed by his assistant, Ernest Board. After his death on August 1, 1911 in London, the mural was finished and installed by Board and Abbey’s friend, John Singer Sargeant. A large number of his works are on display at Yale University.