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The Ryder Moon
February 11, 2008

Ryder's Moonlight

Albert Pinkham Ryder's Moonlight

It must be a dozen or more years since the night I took a ferry ride with a friend across Long Island Sound. Hilda Morley, a poet from the influential Black Mountain School, and I were returning from Provincetown, Mass., to her house in Sag Harbor, Long Island. We had been driving, but on this last stretch you could take your car on the ferry and walk around the boat a bit. It was very late, the sky was as dark as the water. It was summer but there was a chill in the air. Hilda tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Look behind you, the Ryder moon." I turned and there it was, a beautiful yellow-white disk against a blue-black sky.

From that time on I've always had a fondness for Ryder. Albert Pinkham Ryder was a descendant of Cape Cod families, which may have been why Hilda had been thinking about him. For me, he's probably the most important American painter from the late nineteenth century, and his work is well represented at SAAM. Head to the second floor and find your way to the Ryder room. His interest was the sea, mythology, and religious parables. He painted beautifully with what I can only describe as a fragile strength. He seems an heir to J. M. W. Turner, but totally American--a Herman Melville of the canvas. Among my favorite Ryders that are on view are The Flying Dutchman and the appropriately named Moonlight.

There's just something about the Ryder moon that captivates me and makes me return to view these paintings again. And they bring back that wonderful evening when I was tapped on the shoulder by a poet who was a master at teaching others how to see.

You can keep your sunlight; I'm staying in the company of painters, poets, and the Ryder moon.

Posted by Howard on February 11, 2008 in American Art Here


Howard, thank you for this beautiful association springing from an encounter on a ferry. You reminded me of the times I've taken ferries to and from Maine's striking rocky islands. I am planning a visit to Maine's Deer Isle, including a trip by ferry to Isla au Haut. It will be time for me to revisit the writing of Sarah Orne Jewett, particularly The Country of Pointed Firs, an American work particular to Maine.

Thank you for sparking my own memory and association to the work of an American master.

Thank you Victoria. Where would we be without our favorite paintings, books, and places that inspire us? Enjoy your trip to Maine!

I am not a direct art-lover. But works from Mr. Pinkham Ryder are almost always impressing me. I remember the Florizel and Perdita and --a link to our country with the Flying Dutchman. I think I saw them all at the same museum during my USA trip last year. Great work.

I just came across this blog while looking for a different one, but I am so excited to discover more about this artist. The night sky is a great inspiration for poets and painters I love to see their interpretations

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