Ralph Albert Blakelock
(New York, 1847 - 1919, Elizabethtown, New York)
Ralph Albert Blakelock was one of America’s most original late 19th-century artists. Although largely self-taught, he was certainly aware of the art of his time, initially the Hudson River School and subsequently French Barbizon painting. Blakelock exhibited at the National Academy of Design beginning in 1867 and received an honorable mention at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. In 1916 the Toledo Museum of Art purchased Brook by Moonlight for $20,000, the highest sum paid for a work by a living American artist to that time.
In 1869 Blakelock set out for the American West, venturing through Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, California, Mexico, Panama and Jamaica, returning to New York by 1871. His new subject matter included views of Indian encampments and wilderness scenes. Around 1879, Blakelock began to produce more subjective responses to nature in compositions featuring generalized landscape motifs, muted light, a darker palette and dense vegetation. Blakelock’s signature moonlight scenes, which confirmed his reputation as a great romantic painter, are characterized lacelike trees and a full moon reflected in foreground water.
After his marriage in 1875, Blakelock struggled to support his family, which included nine children. He was employed painting decorative plaques and hawked hastily executed paintings for modest prices, but remained impoverished. In 1899, Blakelock experienced his first mental breakdown and was confined to a mental hospital in 1901. Almost immediately therafter Blakelock came to renown, celebrated as a visionary artist.