Art / essay

How to Make a Ryder

Albert Pinkham Ryder.

It is said of Albert Pinkam Ryder’s work that forgery dramatically increased his body of work. Supposedly, Ryder’s pictures attract the miscreants of the art world to fake his style and methods. His work is probably as much faked as Monet.

Albert Pinkam Ryder (1847-1917) was a strange bird. He didn’t clean so his surroundings were littered with the detritus of life, with papers and sundries scattered about his abode. Yet he was cordial when needed but seemed to have less desire of companionship than most other people. Nevertheless, he established longstanding friendships such as with the artist J. Alden Weir, an impressionist who I have a particular fondness for.

The image of a disheveled recluse mainly come from his later years since, like Degas, he never married and lamented his loneliness and lack of companionship.

Ryder favored romantic and religious themes, painting subjects such as from Wagner operas and the works of Shakespeare to biblical stories and fanciful tales of romance. Of course, born and grown up in New England, Massachusetts in particular, he incorporated the sea in many of his pictures.

Many of Ryder’s pictures show a strong disregard of painterly details and, instead, focus on the forms and movement in the image with a rich yellow light illuminating the scene. Much like the Luminists, who used contrasts of color and other techniques to create a “glow”, Ryder experimented by painting over layers of varnish and paint. He ignored the classical tautology of “fat over lean” and “thick over thin” taught in art schools. (Oil Painting – The Ultimate Guide For Beginners.) Consequently, many of his sparsely produced pictures are in various states of deterioration and due to the fact that some are even still sticky to the touch, extremely difficult to stabilize and repair. Quite a few are heavily cracked.

Ryder, painting back in the 19th century, inspired the modernists of the early 20th century due to his “abstraction” of scenes and his expressive content.

“The artist needs but a roof, a crust of bread, and his easel, and all the rest God gives him in abundance. He must live to paint and not paint to live.”

“The artist should fear to become the slave of detail. He should strive to express his thought and not the surface of it. What avails a storm cloud accurate in form and colour if the storm is not therein?”

Quotes of Albert Pinkham Ryder.

Britannica biography:

The Smithsonian American Art Museum:

The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC:

Art News
Self-Portrait in oil, HBosler.

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