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Ranger, Henry Ward

(1858-1916) A leading artist of the Tonalist movement, Henry Ward Ranger was responsible for the establishment of one of America’s most famous art colonies. Ranger was raised in Geneseo and Syracuse, New York, where his father was a professor of photography and drawing at Syracuse University. Ranger enrolled at the university but left to work in his father’s studio. He studied art in France, where he was influenced by the Barbizon School and a group of Dutch painters called “The Hague.” Ranger exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Paris Exposition and had a one-man show at Knoedler’s in New York in 1892. He became a successful lecturer and painter, exhibiting at the Brooklyn Art Association, the National Academy, the Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, and several expositions. In the 1890s he met Florence Griswold whose home in Old Lyme, Connecticut would become a center of artistic activity. Captivated by the area’s beauty, Ranger began painting in Old Lyme and established the American Barbizon School, attracting many artists there. Ironically, the colony became synonymous with an American version of Impressionism, a style Ranger disliked. Ranger objected to the Impressionists’ method of fast-paced outdoor painting in a light palette. While his own paintings were based on plein-air sketches, Ranger finished his works in the studio in the traditional academic manner. Soon after Childe Hassam arrived at Old Lyme, Ranger left and established a new colony at Noank, near Mystic on the Connecticut coast. Despite the somber palette that characterizes Tonalist painting, Ranger’s works are soft, lush, and romantic. He died in 1916 without family, leaving his estate to the National Academy of Design to establish a fund for the acquisition of works by American artists. Ranger’s own works are represented in many American institutions.

Title: Clearing the Land
Medium: 1914, oil on canvas, signed lower left, 28.5" x 35.5