Painting: The Great Romantic

A frail, solitary boat pitches and tosses in an angry, moonlit sea. An apocalyptic horseman gallops around a desolate racecourse, scythe at the ready. Christ, risen from the grave, appears to Mary Magdalene in a somber garden, Macbeth conspires with the witches on a wind-blasted heath, and Siegfried happens across the Rhine maidens bathing seductively in a river bordered by strangely twisted trees.

Such were the romantic subjects chosen by Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), the most eccentric, least prolific, most technically inept but arguably the most interesting U.S. painter of his time. While...

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