1847–1917, American painter, b. New Bedford, Mass. In 1867 his family moved to New York City. There he studied with W. E. Marshall, the engraver, and at the National Academy of Design, but he was largely self-taught. Except for several brief trips abroad, most of his life was spent in New York. He devoted all his energy to his paintings, on which he worked over and over, often for years. He experimented constantly with the oil medium, loading his canvases with layers of paint, often not allowing surfaces time to dry. Unfortunately, many of his experiments were unsuccessful, and his paintings have deteriorated markedly. Ryder produced only about 160 canvases, now considered among the finest American works of art. Although small in size, they have grandeur of design and feeling, great luminosity, and subtle color. Moonlight and the sea predominate in Ryder's highly imaginative paintings, which are remarkable in their power to evoke a lonely and poetic mood. His later works appear to be painted dreams. All his life Ryder was afflicted with an eye malady that made focusing on small details or looking at bright light painful. Freeing himself, therefore, from the literal depiction of the natural world, Ryder expressed the mysterious forces of nature in rhythmic and somber masses. His tendency toward abstraction has linked him with the modern movement. Notable examples of his art are in most of the important American galleries; the Brooklyn and Metropolitan museums, New York City, and the National and Phillips Memorial galleries, Washington, D.C., have the largest collections. Toilers of the Sea (Metropolitan Mus.), Death on a Pale Horse (Cleveland Mus.), and The Flying Dutchman (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.) are much loved and characteristic works. In American painting Ryder's works were among those most often forged.
- See catalog by Whitney Museum (1947).