Blakelock, Ralph Albert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Blakelock, Ralph Albert

Ralph Albert Blakelock, 1847–1919, American landscape painter, b. New York City. The son of a doctor, he was educated for a medical career but abandoned it for painting, in which he was largely self-taught. His life was one of hardship. At first his work, although exhibited in major exhibitions, was largely rejected by the public. Later, those who purchased his paintings took gross advantage of him. Unable to support a family that included eight children, beginning in 1891 he suffered a series of nervous breakdowns. Diagnosed with a mental disease now thought to have been schizophrenia, he was committed to an asylum in 1899, where he painted many small landscapes. Released in 1916, he did not paint again. By this time his paintings had been accorded recognition and brought high prices to dealers, but nothing to him.

Typically, Blakelock's landscapes are painted in great detail with strong lights and silhouetted dark masses, expressing a melancholy and romantic temperament. The subjects, including landscapes with small Native American figures, are often drawn from his early journeys (1869, 1870, and 1871) to the West. He is particularly noted for his moonlight effects. Among his well-known works are Brook by Moonlight (Toledo Mus. of Art); Indian Encampment and Pipe Dance (Metropolitan Mus.); and Sunset and Moonrise (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.). Blakelock's work has been among the most often forged of any American painter.

See biography by G. Vincent (2003); studies by L. Goodrich (1947) and N. Geske (1987).

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