Henry Ward Ranger painting on Mason’s Island near Mystic, Connecticut, Courtesy Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut

The American artist Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916) studied in Europe, and when he returned to the United States in 1888, he began to exhibit with members of the National Academy of Design (NAD), the American Watercolor Society, and the Society of American Artists.

In the summer of 1899, Ranger became of the founders of the late Barbizon art colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut, that centered around the Florence Griswold house. As this photograph of Ranger shows, he was a devoted plein air painter and often taught others to work outdoors directly from nature.

Ranger’s most important association was with the NAD, a prestigious organization of artists (and, later, architects) that elected him to be a full academician in 1906. He generously showed his support for the NAD and started a program to share paintings by both current and past NAD members with public institutions. He also bequeathed his entire estate, stipulating that the income be used to purchase paintings by living American artists. Ranger further directed that these pictures were to be loaned to any public American museum, and that the Smithsonian Institution could use his money to acquire any work it desired, if it did so between 10 and 15 years after an artist’s death.

Unfortunately, in recent years the NAD has struggled to pursue a viable mission and pay its bills. In 2008, it sold two of its great masterpiece paintings for more than $13 million, but when that revenue proved insufficient, two buildings the NAD occupied on 5th Avenue in New York City were put up for sale.

The above article was featured in the October/November 2017 issue of PleinAir magazine, which features other great content including artist profiles on Jane McGraw-Teubner, Greg Scheibel, Linda Apriletti, Mat Barber Kennedy, Philip Alexander Carlton, Hai-Ou Hou, Ken Karlic, and John A. Varriano. Subscribe today!

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Editor PleinAir Today, Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Plein Air Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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