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Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919)

( Originally Published 1955 )

An American Romantic landscape painter whose life was marred by tragedy, he is noted for his moonlit scenes done with originality and sincere poetic feeling. Heavy with pigment, these somber landscapes of silhouetted trees against golden skies are sensitive, romantic evocations of the mystery of darkness. In its earlier phase his art is related to the Hudson River school (see), but after a trip to the West (1869-72) he introduced Indian life into his work. He later became progressively less concerned with reality and more with poetic effect. Blakelock was born in New York City, the son of a physician, and studied medicine at the City College. He turned to painting and attended Cooper Union Institute for a short period, but was largely self-taught. His painting did not meet with public favor, and, dogged by poverty, supporting a large family, forced to sell his paintings for next to nothing, he broke down and was committed to an asylum in 1899. Seventeen years later, after he had achieved fame and his pictures were attracting record prices, he was rediscovered and his release arranged. He was showered with honors, voted a full member of the National Academy of Design, and exploited by dealers. But none of this meant anything to him any longer, and returning to the asylum in 1918, he died the next year. His art is close to that of Albert P. Ryder, not only in appearance, since both produced heavy layers of paint by successive glazing. but also in sensitive introspection and Romantic mood.

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