Monday, March 23, 2009

Why Portland Art Museum* Has a Set of Rare Ryders

This is an image of Chief Joseph, and a sketch of Chief Joseph by C.E.S. Wood.

As usual, it's all about who you know. "The Equestrian" is Ryder's portrait of his friend,the artist J Alden Weir. Portland Art Museum* co-founder and artist, C.E.S. Wood befriended Weir decades before at West Point academy. When C.E.S. (Charles Erskine Scott) Wood came to Portland, he left Weir and other friends behind, they would become part of the east coast art scene. Weir studied the impressionists and became a portrait artist, he became friends with Ryder, who he would later introduce to Wood.
In November of 1915 in a letter Wood wrote to his friend J Alden Weir, he said "I have had poor luck interesting anybody in the watercolors....the hard and grinding money makers never want any pictures except steel engravings in the shape of bonds. One gentleman said he thought the watercolors were too delicate. You can imagine a watercolor being too delicate."
So you see, C.E.S. Wood was a west coast advocate for his East coast friends, J Alden Weir, Childe Hassam and Albert Pinkham Ryder. To bring it even closer to home, Wood had trained in drawing under J Alden Weir's father, Robert W. Weir. Wood was also a writer, late in his life he would give up his law practice to write exclusively. He is responsible, in part, for the eloquent translation of Chief Joseph's final words in his surrender speech:

"From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

Wood considered Ryder to be one of the best artists of all time. He understood Ryder's poetic vision. at one time there were ten Ryder's in Portland, owned by the Ladd and Wood families for the most-part. None of them are here anymore. There is a feeling to "The Equestrian" that harkens back to a "Chief Joseph" moment in American history, a moment C.E.S. Wood remembered. In acquiring this piece once owned by Winslow Ayer the Portland Art Museum* honored not only Ryder and J Alden Weir, but Wood and the solitary Chief Joseph and any man and woman whose heart has broken and who in that moment seems lost inside a golden darkness.

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