Jonah is one of Ryder's most densely painted canvases. He reworked this image so many times that the paint layers are still soft to the touch after more than a century. Ryder chose a Biblical tale of damnation, terror, and salvation that suited his poetic temperament and his manner of working. He was a thoughtful and literate painter who often found himself waiting for inspiration to strike. When the moment came, Ryder gave himself over to the act of painting, stopping only to gather his energy and courage. We imagine his brush sweeping and turning through the thick paint, much as Jonah struggled in the ocean’s pitching waves. American artists a generation later were inspired by Ryder's mythic themes and vigorous painting. His example helped them to create a new art for the American century. The abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock once said, "The only American master who interests me is Ryder."


This image is in the public domain.

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