Albert Pinkham Ryder
Reading just a bit about this mystical artist’s life is like taking a trip into another world of pure devotion to art, surrounded by disorder and chaos, to macabre moonlight walks along New York’s docks and waterfronts, to a shy, reclusive, hermitic existence. How is it that a very strange artist whom few knew and even fewer took seriously, who shunned all the normal trappings of life in his time, who pretty much ceased producing new work by age fifty, at the time of his death was so sought after that it’s estimated that for every real Ryder there were five fakes? It has only increased since then. I have to admit, as a collector who started very young, without a formal art history education, my sense of what to read, what to study was driven by what I liked and what I wanted to learn about. This clearly does not describe Albert Pinkham Ryder. Even today, with whatever knowledge or “eye” that I may possess, Ryder is more fascinating to read about than to look at. I guess this means I still have room to grow. At this point I would love to quote a lot of Goodrich’s descriptions of Ryder—appearing in his 1959 The Great American Artists series publications, especially the description of his living conditions which resembled a college kids’ dorm room at its worst—but space prevents it. In 1970, my father acquired this small oil on wood panel from the Grand Central Gallery. A letter from Irwin Barrie, the director, to my father reads, The River by Albert P. Ryder, N.A. is an early and authentic example of this famous American painter. The former owner of the painting, Emil Carlsen, N.A. exchanged paintings with Mr. Ryder, probably at the turn of the century. We bought the painting from Mrs. Dines Carlsen, daughter-in-law of Emil Carlsen. This little picture was acquired in a sealed period frame, under glass with a lot of carved information on the frame itself, including the notation “R.C + NM Vose” and a code number, “#2236.” Unsure of what this and various other notations meant, I took the picture to Vose Galleries around 1973 or so. Amazingly, this venerable establishment had hand-written records that went back “to the pilgrims, I think.” Well, not quite that far. But within fifteen minutes, they found references to this piece, when they had framed it, etc. Sadly, I didn’t think to ask for a photocopy of the entry, I was simply thrilled that the records were there. Years later, I wished to reconfirm this information, now more appreciative of the need for authentication of Ryder’s work, so I returned to Vose Galleries, and its new management, Bill and Terry Vose. Repeating the exercise, I was told a small number of these handwritten records had been lost to water damage (as I recall), and the period in question was among them. Oh well, such is life!