Ralph Albert Blakelock
(Abraham A. Davidson)
While Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847–1919) appears in every major survey of American art, no current books exist on his life and work. In this comprehensive study, Abraham Davidson argues convincingly that Blakelock is one of the greatest American painters of the nineteenth century, whose art ranges from the "romantic visionary" school reminiscent of Albert Pinkham Ryder to, later in his tragic life, a more realistic, physically experimental style often touching on abstraction. Davidson examines the haunting influences of Blakelock’s visits to the American West and the Caribbean while a young man, reflected in his strikingly original landscapes. He also explores Blakelock’s connections to various American movements, including the Hudson River School, the Barbizon School, and Tonalism, and discusses the works he produced while institutionalized for schizophrenia for much of the last twenty years of his life. More than150 black-and-white and color illustrations reproduce many of Blakelock's paintings for the first time.
The Unknown Night: The Madness and Genius of R. A. Blakelock, an American Painter
On February 22, 1916, Ralph Albert Blakelock's haunting landscape Brook by Moonlight was sold at auction for $20,000, a record price for a painting by a living American artist. The sale, his second record price in three years, made him famous. The newspapers called him America's greatest artist, and thousands flocked to exhibitions of his work. Yet at the time of his triumph, Blakelock was confined for fifteen years in a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York while his wife and children lived in poverty. Released from the asylum by a young philanthropist, Blakelock was about to become the victim of one of the most heartless con games of the century. This remarkable biography -- unprecedented in its comprehensiveness and authority -- chronicles the life, times, and madness of one of America's most celebrated and exploited painters, whose brooding, hallucinogenic landscapes anticipated abstract expressionism by more than half a century. With unfaltering historical detective work, Glyn Vincent unearths the facts of Blakelock's childhood in Greenwich Village; his youthful journeys among the Sioux and Uinta Indians, which inspired some of his best-known paintings; and the years in which he struggled to support his family by peddling his canvases door-to-door and playing piano in vaudeville theaters. He explores the nature of Blakelock's mental illness and shows how the painter fell into the dubious care of a dashing adventuress who kept him a virtual prisoner while siphoning off the profits of his success, and he assesses the painter's true place in the pantheon of American art. Like the best biographies, this book is also a portrait of a vanished world, and particularly the New York of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, a city of artists' studios and spiritualists' salons, shantytowns and millionaires' mansions, a city where the line between obscurity and adulation was seductively, treacherously thin. Impressively researched, filled with human drama and vivid period detail, and in the tradition of A Beautiful Mind and The Professor and the Madman, The Unknown Night is a seductive mixture of scholarship and storytelling.