Henry Ward Ranger 1858 – 1916

Henry Ward Ranger American artist, was born in western New York State. He was a prominent landscape and marine painter, an important Tonalist, and the leader of the Old Lyme Art Colony.

Henry Ward Ranger was born on January 29, 1858. As a young man he studied music, excelling on the piano and organ. Ranger grew up drawing and painting and received initial encouragement from his parents. After graduating from public school, he studied at Syracuse University for two years, where he studied art formally for the first time. While he worked in his father’s photographic business, he began painting watercolour landscapes, which were said to have surprisingly free brush work for someone who had not yet studied abroad.

In 1883, he married an Helen Jennings, a divorced actress with a son. The newly formed Ranger family moved to Europe, visiting Paris first, but then settling in Laren, Holland where he became active with the Hague School painters, Jozef Israëls, Anton Mauve and the Maris brothers. Ranger was rapidly adopted by the Dutch painters and he quickly adopted their subjects and way of working.

Ranger set up a New York studio in 1888, so he could paint landscapes there and cultivate American collectors. In 1892, he had a major exhibition of twenty-four paintings at Knoedler Galleries in New York, which received a positive review. He painted watercolours that were considered free and vibrant by critics like Arthur Hoeber. Once back in the United States, Ranger became one of the leaders of the “Tonal” school of painting, and it is he who was given credit for coming up with the name “Tonalist.”

An exhibition of his paintings at the Lotos Club in the mid-1890s institutionalized the style. In 1894, he had an exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery, the first firm to specialize in the works of American artists. This exhibition included many works that had been done on a sketching trip to Canada.

Ranger was the first member of the Florence Griswold circle in the Old Lyme Art Colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut. He first stayed at Florence Griswold’s boarding house in the summer of 1899, perhaps having heard about the area from several colleagues who had summered there and in nearby towns on the Connecticut coast in the 1890s. Inspired by the landscape’s resemblance to the Barbizon forest of France, the art colony was established under Ranger’s leadership in 1900.

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