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.