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 Henry Ward Ranger  (1858 - 1916)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut      Known for: landscape painting-forest interiors

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Henry Ward Ranger
from Auction House Records.
MAINE COASTAL SCENE
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A key person in the establishment of the Old Lyme, Connecticut art colony in 1899, Henry Ward Ranger is regarded as the leader of the Tonalist movement in America and was a leading painter in this country in the late 19th and early 20th-centuries.

He was born in Geneseo and raised in Syracuse, New York, and in 1873, enrolled in the College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, where his father was a professor of photography and drawing.  Two years later, he became a re-toucher of paintings in his father's studio and did not earn a college degree.  He also spent much time in New York City, where he was a writer of music criticism and visited galleries, where he had his first exposure to French Barbizon painting.  During much of the 1880s, he painted watercolors of marine subjects, and exhibited those in New York City, Boston, and Paris.

As a student in France, he became greatly interested in the Barbizon School of painters, and then a trip to The Hague, Holland, was even more influential when he met a large colony of Dutch painters called "The Hague School", whose emphasis was on Realism and Tonalism.   Their soft, Atmospheric and Tonalist style of sombre colors seemed to suit him.  However, his soft colors later became a special problem for anyone trying to restore his paintings as it was difficult to distinguish original color from soil on canvases.   He did his sketches "en plein air" but finished his paintings in his studio and often exhibited his sketches and paintings together.

In 1885, Ranger moved to New York City and took up easel painting increasingly favoring oils over watercolors.  In 1892, he had a one-man exhibition at the Knoedler Galleries in New York City.  Many of his works in that show were forest interiors and tree studies. 

Gradually his palette lightened with color and luminosity suggesting the influence of George Inness.  In the summer of 1899, Ranger discovered Florence Griswold's boardinghouse in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and he returned in the summer of 1900.  With his influence and the friendship of Florence Griswold, he became the leader of the artists' colony of Old Lyme, "an American version of Barbizon" (Lowrey 162) for three years.  However, the prevalent style changed to Impressionism with the 1903 arrival of Childe Hassam.  He became disenchanted with painting at Old Lyme with the arrival of Childe Hassam in 1903 and the subsequent influence of his Impressionist style.  In protest of the plein-air, fast painting, and lightened palette and abstraction of these Impressionists, Ranger, in 1905, moved farther down the coast to Noank, Connecticut near the mouth of the Mystic River.

Like many of his associates, he also maintained a studio in New York City where he was very prominent and often lectured and wrote about art and took an active part in the art community.  He was a member of the National Academy of Design and the National Arts Club, and he wrote articles about art that were published.

When Henry Ward Ranger died in 1916, he was a childless widower and left his estate to the National Academy of Design to establish the Ranger Fund whose income was to purchase the works of living American artists beyond the age of forty-five.


Sources include:
Carol Lowrey, "Henry Ward Ranger",  The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism, 162, Spanierman Gallery
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Henry Ward Ranger (January 29, 1858 – November 7, 1916 ), American artist, was born in western New York State. He became a prominent landscape and marine painter, much of his work being done in the Netherlands, and showing the influence of the modern Dutch school. He became a National Academician (1906), and a member of the American Water Color Society. He is considered a Tonalist. Among his paintings are, Top of the Hill, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and East River Idyll, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Henry Ward Ranger was born on January 28, 1858. His mother was Martha Marie, and his father Ward Valencourt Ranger, and he was born in the rural western part of New York State, most likely in Geneseo. He grew up in Syracuse, where his father worked as a commercial photographer, but his father also had some artistic training and later taught drawing. As a young man he studied music, excelling on the piano and organ. Ranger grew up drawing and painting and received initial encouragement from his parents. After graduating from public school, he studied at Syracuse University for two years, where he studied art formally for the first time. While he worked in his father's photographic business, he began painting watercolor landscapes which were said to have surprisingly free brush work for someone who had not yet studied abroad. He moved to New York in 1878 where he saw works of the Barbizon School for the first time. He supported his art studies by reviewing music and theatre for several New York newspapers. In 1883 he married an Helen Jennings, a divorced actress with a son.

The newly formed Ranger family moved to Europe, visiting Paris first, but then settling in Laren, Holland where he became active with the Hague School painters, Joseph Israels, Anton Mauve and the Maris brothers. Ranger was rapidly adopted by the Dutch painters and he quickly adopted their subjects and way of working. He sketched with the Hague School artists and learned to paint the quickly changing skies of the low counties. Because of the flatness of the land, the skies were important in Hague School paintings and the cloud filled skies with the their diffused light became characteristic of Ranger's early work. The artist enjoyed living in the modest town, and his work advanced enough to be accepted by the Paris Salons by the late 1880s, and his work was accepted by leading Dutch collectors.

Ranger set up a New York studio in 1888, so he could paint landscapes there and cultivate American collectors. He had a major exhibition at Knoedler Galleries in New York in 1892 which consisted of twenty-four paintings and received a positive review. He painted watercolors which were considered free and vibrant by critics like Arthur Hoeber. Once back in the United States, Ranger became one of the leaders of the "Tonal" school of painting, and it is he who was given credit for coming up with the name "Tonalist." In 1894 he had an exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery, the first firm to specialize in the works of American artists. This exhibition included many works that had been done on a sketching trip to Canada.

Ranger was the first member of the Florence Griswold circle in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Source: www.wikipedia.com

Biography from Roger King Fine Art, Q - Z:
Henry Ward Ranger, a leading artist of the Tonalist movement, was responsible for the establishment of the art colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.  Ranger was raised in Geneseo and Syracuse, New York, where his father was a professor of photography and drawing at Syracuse University.  Ranger enrolled at the school but left to work in his father's studio.

He studied art in France, where he was influenced by the Barbizon School and a group of Dutch painters called "The Hague."  Ranger exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Paris Exposition, and had a one-man show at Knoedler's in New York in 1892.  He became a successful lecturer and painter, exhibiting at the Brooklyn Art Association, the National Academy, the Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, and several expositions.

In the 1890s he met Florence Griswold and began painting in Old Lyme.  Captivated by the area's beauty, he established the American Barbizon School there, which attracted many artists.  However, after Childe Hassam joined the colony it became more closely aligned to an American style of Impressionism.  Ranger disliked the Impressionists' method of rapid outdoor painting in a light palette; while he sketched out-of-doors, Ranger finished his works in the studio in the traditional academic manner.

Soon after Hassam's arrival, Ranger left Old Lyme to start a new colony at Noank, near Mystic on the Connecticut coast.  Ranger died in 1916 without family and bequeathed his estate to the National Academy of Design to establish a fund for the acquisition of works by American artists.  His own works are represented in many American museums.


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Henry Ranger is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Old Lyme Colony Painters
Tonalism



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