Trot, Trot Back Again…


I mentioned the city of Boston loosely regarding my trip to Josh’s wedding on Saturday. It actually took place in Worcester, Mass, about twenty miles west of Boston.

In classic sloppy-blogger fashion, I forgot to bring the camera–hey, I remembered my good shoes, and that’s more important, right? Not to fear, however. Niece Erin from St. Louis will send me some of the photos she took, including a bunch of the little kids dancing and one of Josh and me. I’ll post a few when they arrive. It was pretty much the most I ever danced at a wedding. Great fun.

I can show you the picture above right now, however. I found it at the Worcester Art Museum. Josh’s mom, my sister-in-law Laura from Syracuse, and her husband, Tom, were on their way from brunch at the hotel to the museum just as we arrived. My three daughters immediately ran off with their cousins, Maureen got sucked into the brunch scene, and I, as you would expect, tagged along with Laura and Tom for the two-block walk to the museum.

It’s fairly sizable institution with a wonderful collection. I found a Soutine portrait just inside the door to the European paintings. There is also a glowing Rembrandt portrait of Saint Bartholomew, The Repentant Magdalene by El Greco, a Goya portrait, and a strong representation from most of the big-name impressionists. I was most thrilled to come across the painting above, a small, typically cracked Albert Pinkham Ryder oil on wood in the American Paintings gallery. It’s called Pegasus (The Poet on Pegasus Entering the Realm of the Muses). It was painted by Ryder, a late 19th century American mystic, for an editor, critic, and poet named Charles de Kay, who gave it the longer parenthetical subtitle.

Ryder often drew from classical mythology, as well as from Northern European legends and biblical texts, eliciting images that glow from an essential darkness. His habit of constant over-painting, using less-than-high quality materials, resulted over the decades in the kind of brick-work crazing or cracking evident in this picture. The blemished surfaces of Ryder’s paintings are a blessing, really, giving them a timeless, even ancient quality that matches their subjects. It’s as if he designed the work to age quickly in this way. He was, it seems, a man out of time, not unlike his contemporaries Poe and Van Gogh. An anti-social recluse in New York City (I’ll try to find one from another city to write about soon), Ryder also is said to have used his smallish paintings for beer mug coasters, which may have aided in the cracking process.

I’ve seen Ryders in smaller collections, such as the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. I’ve seen good ones in the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well. They are hidden treasures—embers glowing from dark spaces between the big-name-artist pictures. I enjoy finding them, and I remember where they are. My fortuitous hook-up with Laura and Tom served to broaden my cracked web of known Ryders.

8 Responses to “Trot, Trot Back Again…”

  1. kenju Says:

    I know I have heard his name before, but I’m not familiar with his work. Next time I get to any of the museums you mentioned, I will be on the lookout.

    I can’t believe you forgot your camera!

  2. mrschili Says:

    I THOUGHT you said you were going to Worcester – so I was a little confused when you were “trot-trotting” to Boston. They really are VERY different places. Did you ever make it in to Boston?

    I’m very glad you enjoyed yourself – and that you danced – but I, too, can’t believe you forgot your camera. Here’s hoping your niece shares your eye for photo composition..

  3. suburbanlife Says:

    Too bad you forgot your camera, but what the hell you were well shod to walk to the museum.
    Interesting painting by Ryder, looks to have a lot of Gustave Moreau influnce and generally a Symbolist bent. You are right, the cracking gives an antique feel to the image which suits the subject painted. Thanks for posting this!

  4. OldOldLady Of The Hills Says:

    You describe Ryders works so well, Rick…the cracked look of age…Interesting what you said about that, too! I never thought of that but you could be so very right! And using the small ones as coasters…LOL! That is WONDERFUL!
    It dounds like that Museum was a great “find”.

  5. Carroll Says:

    Let me echo with incredulity “You forgot your camera??!” Oh well, at least it was “only” Worcester we missed seeing through your eyes. I’d been hoping for an update on Beacon Hill and Newbury Street, but will await the family wedding spread with equal enthusiasm. Glad you had such a good time 🙂

  6. Todd Says:

    I am duplicating his studio experience in my basement

  7. Weed Woman Says:

    I love the age cracked effect. I personally cannot imagine the patience and forethought required to do all that glazing. The beer can might be an interesting way to add texture and depth however! I’ve tried the glazing thing, but being an impatient modern American, I just can’t stand it. Thanks for sharing this painting.

  8. Todd Says:

    That is why they invented quick drying linseed oil and japan dryer, dries in about a day.

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