Henry Ward Ranger


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Painter. Known especially for richly painted, intimate woodlands, he ranked among the most popular American landscape painters in the years around the turn of the twentieth century. He also painted open pastorals, as well as city and shore views. Rooted in the Barbizon method and indebted to the example of George Inness's late style, his work contributed to the period's enthusiasm for tonalism. Some works, particularly from the later part of his career, demonstrate admiration for impressionism's vivid chromatic effects and flickering light. Ranger rarely emphasized topographical accuracy, preferring instead to evoke poetic moods. Picturing a hazy Manhattan beyond the graceful arches of a bridge spanning the Harlem River, High Bridge, New York (Metropolitan Museum, 1905) skillfully deploys patterned forms, appealing colors, and lively brushwork. Even this scene of industrialized modernity submits to his characteristic decorative romanticism. Born in Syracuse, New York, Ranger studied for two years at Syracuse University. Mostly self-taught as an artist, he had begun painting in watercolor before he left the university in 1875. Two or three years later, he moved to New York. There, as he continued to specialize in watercolor, his detailed approach soon became more fluid and atmospheric. He spent most of the 1880s traveling and working in Europe, while developing his oil technique. He particularly admired the Barbizon masters' lyric images and the picturesque scenes of contemporary Dutch landscape and genre painters, as well as the old masters. In 1888 he resettled in New York but continued to travel often in search of landscape subjects. Credited as the founder of its summer art colony, in 1899 he first visited Old Lyme, Connecticut. From 1905 he spent summers at Noank, a little farther east along the Atlantic shore, while often wintering in the Caribbean. Illness curtailed his activity for about three years before his death in New York. His views on art appeared as Art-Talks with Ranger (1914) by Ralcy Husted Bell. In a notable gesture of support for American art, Ranger bequeathed his considerable estate to the National Academy of Design for the purchase of paintings by living artists of the United States. In a day when few museums actively collected contemporary art, he stipulated that these works should be distributed to institutions throughout the nation. Since 1919, the fund has placed more than six hundred paintings.

Subjects: Art.

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