Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Important Maritime Painting: Platt Powell Ryder

One of our featured paintings as part of the Important Marine & Maritime Paintings Exhibit  is a work by Platt Powell Ryder.

The Welcome Step, painted in 1883, is a piece of Nantucket maritime history. The scene depicts the home of Charles Myrick, captain of the Nantucket coastal trading vessel Abel Hoyt in the 1850s. Here, Myrick is returning home presumably after a voyage. 

Captain Myrick was first painted by Eastman Johnson in 1873 and again in 1880.  Platt Powell Ryder, like Eastman Johnson, turned to Nantucket interiors and its elderly whaling and seafaring men in the 1880s as they had become nostalgic symbols of Nantucket’s golden past by then. In “The Welcome Step,” Ryder concentrates on the commonplace incidents of everyday life such as a wife with dinner ready awaiting her husband’s return home. The painting skillfully conveys the message of delight using atmospheric lighting.  Mrs. Myrick is pictured in sharp focus looking pleased and ready to serve the soup at a dinner table composed as a beautiful still life.  The fire light gives the viewer the time of the narrative, evening.  The Captain appears out of the shadows with a paper and market basket over his arm. Ryder’s careful observation and skill integrate the whole into a cohesive painting. 

Platt Powell Ryder, The Welcome Step, 1883, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches

Platt Powell Ryder was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1821.  He was a founding member of the Brooklyn Academy of Design, as he made his home in Brooklyn with a studio in New York.  Ryder’s family moved to New Orleans in the 1820’s which meant that Ryder studied art in New Orleans(1830s-1840s) then in Europe (1854-18570 and again in Paris with the famous figure painter Bonnat (1869).  Ryder began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, New York in 1850 and was elected an Associate by 1868. The Brooklyn Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Terra Museum of American Art have genre paintings by Ryder in their collections.