Ryder is another great American artist lost in the sands of time. Perhaps his reclusive nature or the depression he sunk into over the last years of his life caused his lack of popularity. But he was revered by his contemporary artists and he was forward thinking in his art.
Albert Pinkha Ryder (March 19, 1847 – March 28, 1917) was an American painter best known for his poetic and moody allegorical works and seascapes, as well as his eccentric personality. While his art shared an emphasis on subtle variations of color with tonalist works of the time, it was unique for accentuating form in a way that some art historians regard as modernist.
The early view of Ryder was that he was a recluse, holding that he developed his style in isolation and without influence from contemporary American or European art, but this view has been contradicted by later scholarship that has revealed his many associations and exposures to other artists. Ryder’s first training in art was with the painter William Edgar Marshall in New York. From 1870 to 1873, and again from 1874 to 1875, Ryder studied art at the National Academy of Design.He exhibited his first painting there in 1873 and met artist Julian Alden Weir, who became his lifelong friend. In 1877, Ryder made the first of four trips to Europe throughout his life, where his studying of the paintings of the French Barbizon school and the Dutch Hague School would have a significant impact on his work. Also in 1877, he became a founding member of the Society of American Artists. The Society was a loosely-organized group whose work did not conform to the academic standards of the day, and its members included Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Robert Swain Gifford (also from New Bedford), Ryder’s friend Julian Alden Weir, John LaFarge, and Alexander Helwig Wyant. Ryder exhibited with this group from 1878 to 1887. His early paintings of the 1870s were often tonalist landscapes, sometimes including cattle, trees and small buildings.
After 1900, around the time of his father’s death, Ryder’s creativity fell dramatically. For the rest of his life he spent his artistic energy on occasionally re-working existing paintings, some of which lay scattered about his New York apartment. Visitors to Ryder’s home were struck by his slovenly habits—he never cleaned, and his floor was covered with trash, plates with old food, and a thick layer of dust, and he would have to clear space for visitors to stand or sit. He was shy and did not seek the company of others, but received company courteously and enjoyed telling stories or talking about his art. He gained a reputation as a loner, but he maintained social contacts, enjoyed writing letters, and continued to travel on occasion to visit friends.
While Ryder’s creativity fell after the turn of the century, his fame grew. Important collectors of American art sought Ryder paintings for their holdings and often lent choice examples for national art exhibitions, as Ryder himself had lost interest in actively exhibiting his work. In 1913, ten of his paintings were shown together in the historic Armory Show, an honor reflecting the admiration felt towards Ryder by modernist artists of the time who saw his work as a harbinger of American modernist art.
By 1915 Ryder’s health deteriorated, and he died on March 28, 1917, at the home of a friend who was caring for him. A memorial exhibition of his work was held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1918. While the works of many of Ryder’s contemporaries were partly or mostly forgotten through much of the 20th century, Ryder’s artistic reputation has remained largely intact owing to his unique and forward-looking style. Ryder was—along with Thomas Hart Benton, David Siqueiros and Pablo Picasso—an important influence on Jackson Pollock‘s paintings.