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Ralph Albert Blakelock

1847-1919

American Romanticist Tonalist Landscape Painter

Stylistically influenced by the following painters and movements -  Hudson River School,

Education - self-taught

Cause of Death - old age

Blakelock was one of the greatest visionary painters in American art history. His Landscapes are typically luscious and luminous with evocative atmospheric effects featuring misty backgrounds illuminated by moonlight.  His palette was minimal, characterized by warm hues of brown, soft greens, gauzy yellows and muted grays.  Often when the painter was overcome by depressing and despair his work became decidedly melancholy. His skies are hung with gloom filled clouds looking down upon a landscape scorched by a prevailing sense of doom.  The artist stated "What if the clouds one short dark night, hide the blue sky until morn appears When the bright sun that cheers soon again will rise to shine upon earth for endless years."

Blakelock  was drawn to both the natural and spiritual realm. In many of his paintings the subject matter is never entirely apparent; their is no effort to communicate a message or narrate a story.  Instead of relating a story, he arranged the color, form, and line into an intriguing visual poem.

Blakelock's was under constant financial distress with eight hungry children. His unique, visionary landscapes failed to find wide appreciation and financial support. Under the threat of constant financial ruin the artist suffered a complete mental breakdown in 1891 and was placed in an insane asylum. Upon his release Blakelock continued to drift into madness.  The painter was again committed to a mental institution for schizophrenia.

Characteristics and Description of the Tonalist Painting Style and Technique

Tonalism is rooted in the French Barbizon movement, which emphasized atmosphere and shadow. The Tonalist style employs a distinctive technique by the use of color's middle values as opposed to stronger contrast and high chroma. Resulting in a understated and compelling overall effect. The tonalist subject matter is never entirely apparent; their is no effort to communicate a message or narrate a story. Instead of relating a story, each sensitively chosen color, composition, and line is arranged to create an intriguing visual poem.

Principle Painters of Tonalism Movement

Ralph Albert Blakelock American, 1847-1919
Thomas Wilmer Dewing American, 1851-1938] 
Robert Swain Gifford American, 1840-1905
Alexander Thomas Harrison American, 1854 -1929
Lowell Birge Harrison American, 1854-1929
George Inness American, 1825-1894
John La Farge American, 1835-1910
Arthur Frank Mathews American, 1860-1945
John Francis Murphy American, 1853-1921
Albert Pinkham Ryder American, 1847-1917
John Henry Twachtman American,1853-1902
Julian Alden Weir American,1852-1919
James Abbott McNeill Whistler American, 1843-1903




  

 Important words and phrases associated with the Tonalist movement - obscured details, single-figure themes, the natural and spiritual domain, waking, unconscious states, sleep, dreams, death, aura, religious significance, emotionalism, emotionalists, pictorial space, compositional space, diffused light, incandescent glow, organic forms, artistic inspiration, illusionistic representation, luminous, transcendentalist, glowing, metaphysical, emotional expression, poetic, evocative

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