Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Albert Pinkham Ryder -- Women and Another Pollock

Albert Pinkham Ryder was known as Pinkie to his friends from childhood until his death at 70 in 1917. He didn't have many friends but those he had were quite loyal, taking care of him in some of his darkest moments. Amy spoke of his friendship with J. Alden Weir yesterday. Weir invited Ryder to spend time at his country estate during at least one of Ryder's many bouts with nervousness. It's nice to know that every generation seems to be beset with stress from "emerging modernity." One scholarly paper provides this insight into 20th century Nervousness.
Nervousness, or "nervous exhaustion," greatly concerned nineteenth-century Americansin part because of the findings of neurologist George Miller Beard (1839-1883). Beard coined the term "neurasthenia" in 1869 to account for a nebulous host of ailments arising from unhealthily strained nervous states. Symptoms of neurasthenia could include headaches, depression, indigestion, anxiety, insomnia, and a number of other general maladies. Likening the condition to a "nervous bankruptcy," Beard explained that it arose from a progressive drain on a patient's supply of nervous energy. "Brain workers" and people of "refined sensibilities," such as business leaders, writers, artists, and others who endured intense mental and emotional stress, were most likely to be afflicted because they were prone to "overdrawing" their supply of nerve-force. Interestingly, Beard also saw neurasthenia as a necessary condition and defining characteristic of America's continued progress and emerging modernity, a sort of unfortunate Darwinian by-product that was "part of the compensation for our progress and refinement."

Ryder's health was already frail having never fully recovered from the after effects of a vaccination during his youth. That same immunization damaged his eyes, making them extremely sensitive to light. As a result of that sensitivity, Ryder spent much of his life taking long walks at night, exploring the moonlit streets of New York and landscapes of the country. He even chose to paint at night on many occasions.

Ryder's relationships to women appear to have been limited to the wives of his friends and neighbors who when he visited would send him home with pots of food for the rest of the week. His one attempt at romance ended almost as quickly as it had started. At one point, Ryder had moved to his own studio and heard the playing of a violin next door. After a number of days listening to the music from the room next door and being a lover of music himself, Ryder, without formal introduction, went for a visit. He is said to have immediately asked this woman to marry him. What she said isn't known. However, what is known is that another of his friends, Daniel Cottier, shortly after the event did take Ryder on a trip to Europe. All of this took place in 1882. Ryder went back to his reclusive habits until his death at a friend's home in Elmhurst, Long Island in 1917.

Pinkie returns to NYC in the 21st century. His time capsule drops him onto the pages of the comic strip, Apartment 3G. One of the Sunday episodes includes a painting by Ryder, as well as a look at the life of a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frank Bolle, the writer of 3G, seems to have had a great deal of empathy for both Ryder and his art.

The color in the painting that Bolle has in the last frame is perhaps a bit more intense than Ryder's usual tonal palette. The green especially reminds me of the vibrant colors Jackson Pollack used in T.P.'s Boat in Menemsha Pond 1934 -- quite the Ryder swirl, just change the palette and it could be a Ryder.
   ...  Ryder

No comments: