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ca. 1885-1895 Albert Pinkham Ryder Born: New Bedford, Massachusetts 1847 Died: New York, New York 1917 oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard 27 1/4 x 34 3/8 in. (69.2 x 87.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly 1929.6.98 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing

Gallery Label

Jonah is one of Ryder's most densely painted canvases. He reworked this image so many times that the paint layers are still soft to the touch after more than a century. Ryder chose a Biblical tale of damnation, terror, and salvation that suited his poetic temperament and his manner of working. He was a thoughtful and literate painter who often found himself waiting for inspiration to strike. When the moment came, Ryder gave himself over to the act of painting, stopping only to gather his energy and courage. We imagine his brush sweeping and turning through the thick paint, much as Jonah struggled in the ocean’s pitching waves. American artists a generation later were inspired by Ryder's mythic themes and vigorous painting. His example helped them to create a new art for the American century. The abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock once said, "The only American master who interests me is Ryder."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Animal - whale

Religion - Old Testament - Jonah

Waterscape - boat

Waterscape - sea


paint - oil

fabric - canvas