Cultured Wednesday: Albert Pinkham Ryder

“When a thing has the elements of beauty from the beginning, it cannot be destroyed.”

6 comments

Today’s choice of painter, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), speaks to us primarily through the moods he created in his paintings.  Mystical, mysterious, sometimes eerie, even where his motifs are not explicitly so.

The Old Mill by Moonlight. 1885
The Old Mill by Moonlight. 1885

For his bio, allow me to quote passages from what is written about him in Albert Pinkham Ryder’s Find-A-Grave memorial because it seems to me that here someone wrote who valued the artist for who he was as well as for what he created.

He is considered one of America’s most original artists, best known for his brooding, nocturnal land and seascapes. Most of his paintings are allegories, based on stories from the Bible, Shakespeare, and other literary sources, and filtered through his dreamlike imagination. (…)

Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens
Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens. 1888–1891

Ryder was born and raised in the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the sea would always be a favorite setting for him. In 1867 he settled in New York City and between 1870 and 1875 took classes at the National Academy of Design.

The Lovers' Boat.  c. 1881
The Lovers’ Boat. c. 1881

A loner by temperament, he never married and painted in seclusion, oblivious to art world trends and influences. His reputation as an eccentric is best applied to his unconventional creative methods. Ryder would work sporadically on a canvas for several years, often painting over collected dust, adding layers of pigment and varnish without allowing them to dry properly, and applying such unsuitable substances as wax and candle grease. As a result many of his estimated 160 paintings have deteriorated beyond repair – colors faded, details gone, surfaces heavily cracked.

In the Stable.  1900
In the Stable. 1900

This began to happen during Ryder’s lifetime, and he seemed unfazed about it. “When a thing has the elements of beauty from the beginning, it cannot be destroyed”, he said. “Take the Venus de Milo. Ages and men have ravaged it, its arms and nose have been knocked off, but it still remains a thing of beauty because beauty was with it from the beginning”. The poor condition of his surviving artwork has made Ryder one of the most forged of American painters, but the intensity of his vision remains evident with each brushstroke and can hardly be duplicated.

Spirit of Autumn.  c. 1875
Spirit of Autumn. c. 1875

I guess there is very little left to say, except perhaps that the featured image (slightly cropped) is maybe his most famous painting called The Race Track or Death on a Pale Horse (1895–1910), and that Albert Pinkham Ryder also wrote poetry to go with his paintings, but I was unable to find any of them online.  Pity, that.

If you would like to see more of his paintings, you could go to Albert Pinkham Ryder’s Wikiart entry, there to find 27 of his paintings in total, plus what Wikipedia has to say about him.

Side note: The second painting in the post is my husband’s favorite, our girls like the painting of the horses in the stable best, and my favorite is the last painting, Spirit of Autumn – how fitting for a Cultured Wednesday in October.  Do you have a favorite among the ones we picked, or any of his other paintings?

6 comments on “Cultured Wednesday: Albert Pinkham Ryder”

  1. How interesting! I hadn’t heard of Ryder before either. I could easily get lost in his atmospheric eeriness. It’s hauntingly beautiful. And that quote about Venus de Milo? Priceless. From the paintings you featured I really like The Lovers’ Boat, though I’m not sure I like the boat itself. It’s the painting’s upper half that takes my breath away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is indeed something very special about the atmosphere he creates. You know, I had thought about choosing Hopper instead, inspired in part by your recent post, and then I decided to come back to him another week. Now I am quite glad I chose Ryder. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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