Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ralph A. Blakelock

Above the fireplace in the dining room at the P&C is a curiously framed mahogany palette, thick with dried old paint. There is a little engraved plaque at the bottom of the frame.

It says:

This palette was used by my husband.

A New Yorker, Blakelock was born in 1847; he died in 1919. Blakelock is buried in Westchester County, New York.

Although an accomplished painter, Blakelock went mad in 1899--he attempted to negotiate million-dollar bills at various banks--and was confined to a mental institution for the next seventeen years. Schizophrenia is thought by some to have been the cause of his mental problems; he and his wife had nine children.
Prior to being committed, Blakelock met with little commercial success. He painted during his years in the asylum, but once he was released in 1916 he painted no more. He died a few years later.

It's not clear that he was ever a member of the P&C--that will have to be researched--but Blakelock was in Chicago for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and exhibited at the Art Institute. He must have made his connection with the P&C at that time, before his confinement in 1899.

The Salander-O'Reilly Galleries in New York currently have an exhibition of Blakelock's work.

I like his moonlit landscapes the best.


Blogger chris miller said...

This is the land of Edger Allan Poe and Albert Pinkham Ryder -- the mysterious darklands of the soul -- where strange beasts roam and good men go mad.

I would never have dreamed this was the story behind that crusty old palette that hangs above the fireplace. I guess it's been there for a hundred years or more.

September 03, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Stuart, this guy may currently be the most famous artist ever connected with the P&C !

He had a centenary exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1947 - and he's in the following musuems: The National Gallery, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, San Francisco -- and a whole bunch of smaller ones as well.

It's too bad the widow didn't leave us any paintings.

When did she give us this item and why ? There has to be a story. Her husband must have spoken kindly of the place.

September 03, 2006  
Blogger Cobalt Blue said...

He does remind me of Ryder. And I like Ryder a lot. It seems to be a remarkable connection. So I have adopted Blakelock's old palette as our logo of sorts. The Cowbell was in existence at the time of his death. I'll look in there for any mention of his passing and any explanation for this wonderful memento.

September 04, 2006  
Anonymous Glyn Vincent said...

There was an important show of Blakelock's work at the J.W. Young Gallery in 1916 that Mrs. Blakelock attended. That could be how the palette came to be in Chicago. By 1916 RAB was one of the most celebrated artists in America. For more see my biography, The Unknonwn Night:The Genius and Madness of R.A. Blakelock. (Grove/Atlantic 2003)

December 17, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thankyou, Mr Vincent.

I read your very entertaining book, and posted about it here

Stuart found reference to some letters by Mrs. Blakelock, but has been unable to locate them.

December 18, 2006  

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