Passing Song

In the mid-1890s, Albert Pinkham Ryder was infatuated with a voice he heard in his apartment building. He found the woman who was singing and immediately asked her to marry him. His friends intervened, saying that the woman was unsuitable, but Ryder immortalized the event by painting images of beautiful women bewitching men with their songs. In Passing Song the sailor wants to approach the woman but is unable to turn his rudderless boat as it drifts away with the current. This helpless figure probably symbolizes the artist, who felt passionately about women and fell in love easily, but never married. (Broun, Albert Pinkham Ryder, 1989)

By a deep flowing river

There’s a maiden pale,

And her ruby lips quiver

A song on the gale,

A wild note of longing

Entranced to hear,

A wild song of longing

Falls sad on the ears.”

Albert Pinkham Ryder, quoted in Broun, Albert Pinkham Ryder, 1989

Passing Song
before 1902
8 124 38 in. (21.611.1 cm) 
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of John Gellatly

Mediums Description
oil on wood
  • Waterscape – boat
  • Performing arts – music – voice
  • Landscape – coast
  • Figure female
  • Landscape – water
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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