American, 1847–1919

Ralph Albert Blakelock

'Ralph Blakelock attended the Free Academy of New York from 1864 to 1867, but was largely self-taught. In the late 1860s he made sketching trips to upstate New York and New Hampshire, and from 1869 to 1872 he travelled in Mexico and the American West, visiting Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California, on occasions living among the Native Americans. The sketches made during this trip served as an important source of imagery for his subsequent painting.

While his early landscapes were influenced by the works of the Hudson River School painters, by 1880 Blakelock had developed his own visionary, mystical style, which was darker in tone and less naturalistic. He often painted organic patterns taken from nature set against a sparse background, such as the lacy branches of a tree in silhouette against a moonlit sky. From 1883 to 1898 he painted almost exclusively nocturnal landscapes, with light and dark as a metaphor for hope and despair, as in Landscape with Moon (c.1885-1890), or Moonlight, Indian Encampment (1885-1889). Blakelock often mixed bitumen and varnish to achieve a rich depth of colour in his thick and uneven paint surfaces - a technique that has since resulted in conservation problems. In 1891 he suffered a mental breakdown, and in 1899 he was hospitalised in the New York State Asylum, where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He remained here until 1919, with only a brief interval at the New Jersey sanatorium from 1916 to 1918. Ironically, his hospitalisation increased the commercial value of his paintings, and Blakelock forgeries began to appear as early as 1903; his failure to date most of his work, the lack of documentation and recurrent nature of the imagery only facilited this phenomenon. In July 1919 his legal guardian took him to a cottage in the Adirondacks, where he died the following month.

Blakelock received awards from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1891) and the National Academy of Design, New York (1889). In 1913 and 1916 some of his paintings were re-sold for record American prices. Blakelock exhibited at the National Academy of Design (1867-1888) and at Young's Art Gallery, Chicago (1916).'  (Benezit, Dictionary of Artists, Paris, 2006).

Mark Murray Fine Paintings is a New York gallery specializing in buying and selling 19th century and early 20th century artwork. 

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Ralph Albert Blakelock Paintings Previously Sold

RALPH ALBERT BLAKELOCK  An Indian Encampment   Oil on panel 7¾ x 11¼ inches (19.7 x 28.5 cm.)  SOLD

An Indian Encampment

Oil on panel
7¾ x 11¼ inches (19.7 x 28.5 cm.)