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 Albert Pinkham Ryder  (1847 - 1917)

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About: Albert Pinkham Ryder
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: romanticism-pastoral landscape painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Albert Pinkham Ryder
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Birth
1847 (New Bedford, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1917 (Elmhurst, Long Island, New York)

Lived/Active
New York/Massachusetts

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romanticism-pastoral landscape painting

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New York Armory Show of 1913
Tonalism
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Described as one of America's most imaginative painters, Albert Pinkham Ryder, was born in 1847 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, across the street from the family home of Albert Bierstadt. Ryder entered the National Academy of Design in 1870 and he remained for four school years, until 1875. Soon he became allied with the group of more progressive artists who formed the Society of American Artists in 1877. J. Alden Weir was one of his best friends.

Also in 1877 Ryder made his first trip abroad, to London; he spent the summer of 1882 in Europe and North Africa. Ryder expressed admiration for Rembrandt and he seems to been inspired by Delacroix, Corot, Millet and perhaps Monticelli.

Between 1878 and 1887 Ryder exhibited at the Society of American Artist group shows, as well as at the National Academy. In 1888, after hearing the New York premiere of Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods", he rushed home to paint his highly dramatic "Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens", which is arguably an example of synaesthesia: a perfect harmony of poetry, music and painting.

Ryder was criticized as a figure painter but admired as a colorist. Early on, Ryder had admirers and followers, such as Ralph Blakelock, and many good friends in the circle of Richard Watson Gilder and his wife Helena de Kay. Ryder was influenced by the eccentric painter Robert Loftin Newman (1827-1912), who had a similar mystical point of view.

Ryder developed his own personal technique, using a dark palette, heavy pigment with multiple layers and glazes to create an inner luminosity, but his application of paint was experimental, which frequently resulted in cracking. But for contemporaries, such as Charles de Kay, Ryder's "pictures glow with an inner radiance, like some minerals." His images contain solid but organic forms that some describe as powerful and full of energy and at the same time, they are pleasing, decorative patterns.

Ryder chose Romantic, poetic and spiritual themes: he was a visionary who believed that an artist must "remain true to his dream." Shakespeare and the Bible were his major sources, but he was usually content with representing dream-like moonlit seascapes with single vessels. His drawing upon the unconscious and inspiration from mysterious forces in the creative process forecasts both Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Visually speaking, Ryder anticipates later American abstract painters such as Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley, who also focused on bold silhouette forms. The Syrian-American poet Kahlil Gibran called on Ryder frequently.

After 1900, Ryder became more of a recluse. He lived frugally and stated, "the artist needs but a roof . . . a crust of bread and his easel . . . and all the rest God gives him in abundance." He was a genuine artist who cared nothing for the "good life" to which most artists of his era aspired. Ryder compared himself to the inch worm who crawls up a leaf, then, hanging on to the edge, extends his twisting body, feeling for something beyond: "That's like me. I am trying to find something out there beyond the place on which I have a footing."

Ryder received a silver medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, where Jonah, Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens and The Temple of the Mind were on view. Meanwhile, collectors were seeking out his works John Gellatly would donate seventeen canvases to the National Gallery and important critics were writing ardent appreciations, from Sadakichi Hartmann, one of the first to discover him, to Roger Fry, who admired Ryder's formal compositions. Walter Pach saw in Ryder's works a perfect marriage of form and content. It seems fitting that ten of his paintings appeared at the Armory Show. Ryder died just after his seventieth birthday, in 1917.

Written and submitted March 2005 by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.,  Chicago


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Albert Ryder was born on March 19, 1847 in New Bedford, Massachusetts when it was still a whaling port.  He was the youngest of four sons of a fuel dealer.  The family moved to New York City when he was twenty-three, and an older brother helped send him to art school.  He lived in Greenwich Village and later in a Westside rooming house, where he slept huddled under piles of worn-out overcoats on a floor that was heaped high with yellowing newspapers, empty cans, cheese rinds and mouse-traps with dead mice.  He was troubled with weak eyesight and gout, malnutrition and kidney disease.  He stayed indoors during the day and at night roamed the streets of Manhattan dressed in tattered clothing.

Ryder is considered by many to be the most eccentric, least prolific, most technically inept, but arguably the most interesting United States' painter of his time. He painted with an utter disregard for basic techniques.  He piled paint layer upon layer, to thicknesses of a quarter of an inch, often returning to work on a canvas while it was still wet.  He found it almost impossible to think of a painting as finished, frequently taking back ones he had sold and completely reworking them.

Ryder's world is full of paradoxes.  Widely known as a recluse, he was in touch with the most cosmopolitan circles of his day, even crossing the Atlantic four times.  An acute observer of the world around him, he nontheless produced paintings whose distilled forms anticipate modernist abstraction.

Ryder died in Elmhurst, New York on March 28, 1917.  Toward the end of his life and after his death, Ryder's paintings were tampered with and nearly destroyed by some not-so-well-meaning "friends".  The physical evidence today of his creative output is not what his contemporaries saw.  Louise Fitzpatrick was Ryder's only pupil, longtime friend and in his last years of illness, his caretaker.  She was an amateur artist who closely echoed his style in her own paintings. There is a report from Philip Evergood that Ryder would ask her to paint on his pictures for him, telling her just what colors to use and how to put them on.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources:
Time Magazine, January 10, 1969
William Innes Homer in Art News, October 1989
Wendy Gittler in Art News, December 1995
From the internet, artnet.com

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
A romantic visionary painter, Albert Pinkham Ryder is now considered one of the most important American artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  His haunting moonlit seascapes and evocations of passages from the Bible, great poetry and even Wagnerian operas - all were steeped in his deep reverence for nature.

Going beyond his individual paintings, however, what is significant about Ryder is the way in which his simplified rhythmic forms foreshadowed much of what was to come in modern art.  To him, painting was not simply a representation of what was seen, but rather a manifestation of an inner vision.  It was a creative language, which spoke to the senses through color, form and tone.

New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Ryder was born in 1847, was the center of the whaling industry; his forebears had been mariners for many generations.  An infection damaged his eyes when he was a boy, cutting short his education.  Some speculate that Ryder's predilection for eerie moonlight and vague forms, rather than detail, may have stemmed from his sight problem.

His father bought him paints and canvas to occupy his time and, coached by a local amateur painter, the boy went into the fields to try his hand at painting.  Around 1867, Ryder and his family moved to New York City.  The first time he applied for admission to the National Academy of Design school he was turned down, and instead studied with portrait painter William Edgar Marshall, whose naive approach to religious and romantic subjects influenced him deeply.  In 1871, the Academy relented and accepted Ryder.

In 1877 and again in 1882, Ryder went to Europe, but was impressed neither by the contemporary paintings he saw nor by the Old Masters in the museums.  He went to Europe on two other occasions, but each time it was more for rest and to study the effect of moonlight on water than from any other desire to study European art.  In the 1880s, he began his work based on Biblical and poetic episodes, manifesting his deeply religious inner vision.

In his last years, Ryder became more and more reclusive and eccentric.  After a serious illness in 1915, kindly friends took him into their Long Island home and cared for him until his death in 1917.

His work is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery LLC and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery LLC.


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