1864–66, attended Free Academy of New York. Self-taught as an artist. Exhibited at National Academy of Design, New York, 1867–73. 1869–72, traveled alone in the West, spending much time among Indians. Sketches from this trip, enhanced by imagination, became primary source of his imagery. Married Cora Rebecca Bailey in 1877.
Exhibited at National Academy, 1879–88. Received awards from National Academy, 1889, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1892. 1891, first mental breakdown. Desperately poor, could scarcely support his large family. Another breakdown 12 September 1899, the day his ninth child was born; hospitalized in a New York State asylum until 1916. Transferred to New Jersey sanitarium, where he had a studio, 1916–18. During his incarceration, was elected academician of National Academy of Design (1916). Returned to New York asylum, 1918–19. His by-then popular work much forged during these years. Removed by legal guardian to private cottage in Adirondacks, July 1919. Somewhat regained sanity, but died 19 August 1919.
William Kloss Treasures from the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985)
Ralph Albert Blakelock went to the Free Academy in New York to become a physician. After only two years he dropped out and taught himself to paint. In 1869 he began a three-year journey West, creating many paintings and sketches of American Indian encampments and moonlit scenes. These works proved quite popular, and he revived these subjects frequently throughout his career. After his return to New York, Blakelock struggled to sell his work and his mental health began to deteriorate. He was in and out of mental institutions for the rest of his life, and though his work received great public interest at the turn of the twentieth century, he was unable to benefit from it.