Ralph Albert Blakelock, ‘Moonlight’, Between 1885-95, Phillips Collection

Image rights: Image provided by the Phillips Collection

Acquired 1926

About Ralph Albert Blakelock

With the exception of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Albert Pinkham Ryder, no American Tonalist was more crucial to the development of American modernism than Ralph Albert Blakelock. Although he started out as a somewhat conventional Hudson River School painter, his poetic and symbolic moonlights of the 1890s, with their emphasis on pattern and abstract design and manipulated paint surfaces, changed the face of American art. Blakelock’s scintillating dream-like nocturnes reward close inspection for their interplay of color, tone, subtle vibration, refracted edges, jagged rhythmic patterns, and dissonant harmonies. The artist endlessly experimented with surface textures: scumbling, scraping, and even pumicing his lacquer-like pigments. Blakelock’s works are replete with analogues to nature’s underlying armature, even mimicking the organic structure visible on the microscopic level of cellular formation, or writ large in the more apparent structures of the environment, from plant morphology and animal physiology to geologic structures.

American, 1847-1919, New York, New York