Overview

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.

Inscription

lower left: A. P. Ryder.

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Richard Haines Halsted [d. 1925], New York, by 1891.[1] Sir William Cornelius Van Horne [1843-1915], Montreal, Canada, by 1895;[2] his estate; (his estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 24 January 1946, no. 18);[3] purchased by NGA.

Exhibition History

1891
Fifth Annual Loan Exhibition, New York Athletic Club, 1891, possibly no cat.
1895
Eighteenth Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Art Association of Montreal, 1895, no. 70.
1901
Exhibition of Fine Arts, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901, no. 436.
1902
Seventy-first Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1902, no. 16.
1902
Twenty-fourth Annual Exhibition of the Society of American Artists, New York, 1902, no. 237.
1904
Society of American Collectors Comparative Exhibition of Native and Foreign Art, American Fine Arts Society Galleries, New York, 1904, no. 145.
1910
Ausstellung Amerikanischer Kunst, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1910, two catalogues: no. 163 and unnumbered.
1912
Inaugural Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Art Association of Montreal, 1912, no. 162.
1918
Loan Exhibition of the Works of Albert P. Ryder, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1918, no. 39, repro.
1933
The Sir William Van Horne Collection, Art Association of Montreal, 1933, no. 162.
1946
American Paintings from the 18th Century to the Present Day, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, not in cat. (and withdrawn from exhibition; see curatorial file).
1947
Albert P. Ryder, Centenary Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1947, no. 38, repro.
1957
American Classics of the Nineteenth Century, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1957-1958, no. 81 (travelling exhibition, 5 venues, shown only in Pittsburgh).
1957
Painting in America, the Story of 450 Years, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1957.
1961
Albert Pinkham Ryder, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1961, no. 51, repro.
1983
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.
1990
Albert Pinkham Ryder, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, 1990-1991, no. 59 (shown only in Washington).
2005
Richard Wagner. Visions d'artistes. D'Auguste Renoir à Anselm Kiefer, Musée Rath, Geneva, 2005-2006, no. 27, repro.

Bibliography

1907
Caffin, Charles Henry. The Story of American Painting. New York, 1907; 2nd edition, 1937: 216, repro.
1917
Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. "Some Paintings by Albert Pinkham Ryder." Art in America 5 (April 1917): 157.
1918
Daingerfield, Elliott. "Albert Pinkham Ryder: Artist and Dreamer." Scribner's Magazine 63 (March 1918): 380. repro.
1920
Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. Albert Pinkham Ryder. New York, 1920: 56, 62, repro.
1923
Cortissoz, Royal. American Artists. New York, 1923: 99-100.
1932
Hartman, Sadakichi. A History of American Art. Boston, 1932: 1:318.
1932
Price, F. Newlin. Ryder: A Study of Appreciation. New York, 1932: no. 160.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 146, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 178, color repro.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 13, repro.
1959
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.
1959
Goodrich, Lloyd. Albert Pinkham Ryder. New York, 1959: 18, 115, color pl. 62; details, pls. 61, 63, 64.
1960
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.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 286, repro.
1966
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.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 94, repro.
1974
Gerdts, William H. The Great American Nude. New York, 1974: 130, fig. 7-5.
1979
Johns, Elizabeth. "Ryder: Some Thoughts of His Subject Matter." Arts Magazine 54 (November 1979): 168-169, fig. 4.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 217, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: no. 33, color repro.
1981
Williams 1981, color repro. 158, detail 180, 182-183.
1983
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.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 547, no. 824, color repro.
1988
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.
1989
Broun, Elizabeth. Albert Pinkham Ryder. Exh. cat. National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., 1989: 288-290, pl. 86.
1989
Homer, William Innes, and Lloyd Goodrich. Albert Pinkham Ryder, Painter of Dreams. New York, 1989: 162, pl. 10.
1990
Kelly, Frankin. "George Bellows' Shore House." Studies in the History of Art 37 (1990): repro. no. 18.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 164, color repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 329, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 244, repro.
1994
Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York, 1994: 364, color fig. 24.21.
1994
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.
1998
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.
2011
Colbert, Charles. Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art. Philadelphia, 2011: 200-201, fig. 58.

Conservation Notes

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