By his own account, Ryder was so enthralled by a five-hour performance of Wagner's Götterdämmerung that he rushed home and began painting this rendition of the opera's narrative, working without sleep or food for forty-eight hours. Galloping down a moonlit path, the legendary Norse hero Siegfried encounters a group of Rhine Maidens who beckon seductively from the phosphorescent river. They warn the hero that the magical ring he won by slaying a dragon was forged from stolen gold and bears a deadly curse. Siegfried defiantly proclaims he would rather die than give up his prize. By the opera's dramatic climax, the nymphs' apocalyptic prophecy is fulfilled: Siegfried is killed; overcome by grief, the heroine Brünnhilde sacrifices herself on her lover's funeral pyre, the other gods and heroes of Valhalla are consumed by the spreading conflagration, and the Ring of the Nibelung, now purified by the flames, is returned to the river from whence it came.
Wagner's orchestration engulfed listeners with an overwhelming torrent of sound, and Ryder's composition offers a visual counterpart to this rhapsodic aesthetic experience. Although Ryder's technical naiveté and his unorthodox methods have caused the surfaces of his once-luminous paintings to crack and darken over time, the expressive power and emotional intensity of his art endures.
lower left: A. P. Ryder.
Marks and Labels
Richard Haines Halsted [d. 1925], New York, by 1891. Sir William Cornelius Van Horne [1843-1915], Montreal, Canada, by 1895; his estate; (his estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 24 January 1946, no. 18); purchased by NGA.
- Fifth Annual Loan Exhibition, New York Athletic Club, 1891, possibly no cat.
- Eighteenth Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Art Association of Montreal, 1895, no. 70.
- Exhibition of Fine Arts, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901, no. 436.
- Seventy-first Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1902, no. 16.
- Twenty-fourth Annual Exhibition of the Society of American Artists, New York, 1902, no. 237.
- Society of American Collectors Comparative Exhibition of Native and Foreign Art, American Fine Arts Society Galleries, New York, 1904, no. 145.
- Ausstellung Amerikanischer Kunst, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1910, two catalogues: no. 163 and unnumbered.
- Inaugural Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Art Association of Montreal, 1912, no. 162.
- Loan Exhibition of the Works of Albert P. Ryder, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1918, no. 39, repro.
- The Sir William Van Horne Collection, Art Association of Montreal, 1933, no. 162.
- American Paintings from the 18th Century to the Present Day, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, not in cat. (and withdrawn from exhibition; see curatorial file).
- Albert P. Ryder, Centenary Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1947, no. 38, repro.
- American Classics of the Nineteenth Century, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1957-1958, no. 81 (travelling exhibition, 5 venues, shown only in Pittsburgh).
- Painting in America, the Story of 450 Years, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1957.
- Albert Pinkham Ryder, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1961, no. 51, repro.
- A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting 1760-1910, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C; Grand Palais, Paris, 1983-1984, no. 87, repro.
- Albert Pinkham Ryder, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, 1990-1991, no. 59 (shown only in Washington).
- Richard Wagner. Visions d'artistes. D'Auguste Renoir à Anselm Kiefer, Musée Rath, Geneva, 2005-2006, no. 27, repro.
- Caffin, Charles Henry. The Story of American Painting. New York, 1907; 2nd edition, 1937: 216, repro.
- Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. "Some Paintings by Albert Pinkham Ryder." Art in America 5 (April 1917): 157.
- Daingerfield, Elliott. "Albert Pinkham Ryder: Artist and Dreamer." Scribner's Magazine 63 (March 1918): 380. repro.
- Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. Albert Pinkham Ryder. New York, 1920: 56, 62, repro.
- Cortissoz, Royal. American Artists. New York, 1923: 99-100.
- Hartman, Sadakichi. A History of American Art. Boston, 1932: 1:318.
- Price, F. Newlin. Ryder: A Study of Appreciation. New York, 1932: no. 160.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 146, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 178, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 13, repro.
- Bouton, Margaret. American Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number One in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 30, color repro.
- Goodrich, Lloyd. Albert Pinkham Ryder. New York, 1959: 18, 115, color pl. 62; details, pls. 61, 63, 64.
- The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 25.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 286, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:488, color repro.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 94, repro.
- Gerdts, William H. The Great American Nude. New York, 1974: 130, fig. 7-5.
- Johns, Elizabeth. "Ryder: Some Thoughts of His Subject Matter." Arts Magazine 54 (November 1979): 168-169, fig. 4.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 217, repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: no. 33, color repro.
- Williams 1981, color repro. 158, detail 180, 182-183.
- Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr., Carol Troyen, and Trevor J. Fairbrother. A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting 1760-1910. Exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1983: 307-308, pl. 87.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 547, no. 824, color repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 118, no. 36, color repro.
- Broun, Elizabeth. Albert Pinkham Ryder. Exh. cat. National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., 1989: 288-290, pl. 86.
- Homer, William Innes, and Lloyd Goodrich. Albert Pinkham Ryder, Painter of Dreams. New York, 1989: 162, pl. 10.
- Kelly, Frankin. "George Bellows' Shore House." Studies in the History of Art 37 (1990): repro. no. 18.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 164, color repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 329, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 244, repro.
- Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York, 1994: 364, color fig. 24.21.
- Johnson, Diane C. "Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens: Albert Pinkham Ryder's Response to Richard Wagner's Götterdammerung." American Art 8 (Winter 1994): 22-31.
- Torchia, Robert Wilson, with Deborah Chotner and Ellen G. Miles. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 97-102, color repro.
- Colbert, Charles. Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art. Philadelphia, 2011: 200-201, fig. 58.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection