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Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847 -1917)

Written by Brett Nelson

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Posted on October 26 2019

Albert Ryder was an American painter known for allegorical works and seascapes. he was a romantic painter who portrayed humanity in the grips of supernatural forces. his powerful designs had a lasting influence on other artists. His work reflected tonalist variations in color. His unique treatment of form was modernist.

Ryder was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. This seaport location inspired his work. He was the youngest of four sons. The family moved to New York in 1868 to be with his brother. his brother owned a successful restaurant and managed the landmark Hotel Albert.

Ryder was mistakenly considered a recluse. His painting was inspired by new England themes. Contrary to the recluse myth, he had many artistic influences from other artists. His training in art came from William Edgar Marshall. He studied at the Academy of Design, where he exhibited his first painting. While there, he became lifelong friends with artist Julian Wier.

He made his first trip to Europe in 1877. There, Ryder was influenced by the French Barbizon school and the Dutch Hague school. He also became a founding member of the Society of American artists, exhibiting with them from 1878 to 1887.

His early paintings were landscapes, often including cattle, trees, and buildings. His most creative period was the 1880s and 1890s. He often enjoyed writing poems to go along with his paintings.

He began including romantic scenes from literature, opera, and religion. His style includes broad shapes and stylized figures in a dreamlike land or sea. Dim sunlight or moonlight illuminates his figures through clouds.

His shift toward mystical subjects could be attributed to the influence of Robert Newman, with whom he shared a studio. He rarely signed and never dated his paintings. He made less than two hundred paintings, most of which were created before 1900.

After his father's death around the turn of the century, Ryder became less creative and more depressed in his habits. he would not seek the company of others, but he received guests. his home was notorious for its lack of cleanliness at this time. He allowed dust and trash to accumulate and would have to clear a space for visitors to set.

Even as his interest in painting declined, his popularity and reputation grew. Collectors sought Ryder's work and would exhibit his paintings. Although his paintings have not fared well, his reputation as an artist has remained intact. He died in 1917 after a period of deteriorating health.

 His reputation rests on perhaps a dozen of his best works. these seascapes feature the boats of his youth fighting waves under a centered moon. His work was erratic and many of his paintings did not survive due to his use of materials. His paintings could remain unstable and not dry for a long time.

 Preserving Ryder's work has been difficult, and most of the vibrant colors he used are now gone. The most famous of his works are taken on faith, as they are in very poor condition. He often restored his own paintings during his life. Sometimes collectors would restore them.

He was not a good draftsman, and although his work did not suffer from his poor drawing skills, his treatments were not always representative. The strong tones of his paintings keeps them popular in spite of his notoriously bad technical treatment of the materials. In spite of his setbacks, modernists still see his work as prophetic. His own inspiration was French, but he went on to inspire American artists as an American painter.

View Albert Pinkham Ryder Gallery