(b New Bedford, Mass., 19 Mar. 1847; d Elmhurst, Long Island, NY, 28 Mar. 1917).
American painter of imaginative subjects. He lived and worked most of his life as a solitary and dreamer in New York, and his methods and approach were largely self-taught. His pictures reflect a rich inner life, with a haunting love of the sea (his birthplace, New Bedford, is a fishing port) and a constant search to express the ineffable: ‘Have you ever seen an inch worm crawl up a leaf or twig, and then clinging to the very end, revolve in the air, feeling for something to reach something? That's like me. I am trying to find something out there beyond the place on which I have a footing.’ This imaginative quality and eloquent expression of the mysteriousness of things is expressed typically through boldly simplified forms and eerie lighting (The Race Track or Death on a Pale Horse, Cleveland Mus. of Art). In spite of his self-imposed isolation Ryder's works became well known in his lifetime and he has been much imitated and faked. His own paintings have often deteriorated because of unorthodox technical procedures. He was greatly admired by Jackson Pollock, and the critical and popular favour Ryder enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s was linked to the success of Abstract Expressionism.