Copied Albert Pinkham Ryder, Jonah, ca. 1885-1895, oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard, 27 1434 38 in. (69.287.3 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.98
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Artwork Details

ca. 1885-1895
27 1434 38 in. (69.287.3 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of John Gellatly
Mediums Description
oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard
  • Group
  • Waterscape — boat
  • Waterscape — sea
  • Animal — whale
  • Religion — Old Testament — Jonah
Object Number

Artwork Description

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