The Unknown Night: The Madness and Genius of R.A. Blakelock, an American Painter

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Grove Press, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 362 pages
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On February 22, 1916, Ralph Albert Blakelock's haunting landscape Brook by Moonlight was sold at auction for $20,000, a record price for a painting by a living American artist. The sale, his second record price in three years, made him famous. The newspapers called him America's greatest artist, and thousands flocked to exhibitions of his work. Yet at the time of his triumph, Blakelock was confined for fifteen years in a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York while his wife and children lived in poverty. Released from the asylum by a young philanthropist, Blakelock was about to become the victim of one of the most heartless con games of the century.

This remarkable biography -- unprecedented in its comprehensiveness and authority -- chronicles the life, times, and madness of one of America's most celebrated and exploited painters, whose brooding, hallucinogenic landscapes anticipated abstract expressionism by more than half a century. With unfaltering historical detective work, Glyn Vincent unearths the facts of Blakelock's childhood in Greenwich Village; his youthful journeys among the Sioux and Uinta Indians, which inspired some of his best-known paintings; and the years in which he struggled to support his family by peddling his canvases door-to-door and playing piano in vaudeville theaters. He explores the nature of Blakelock's mental illness and shows how the painter fell into the dubious care of a dashing adventuress who kept him a virtual prisoner while siphoning off the profits of his success, and he assesses the painter's true place in the pantheon of American art.

Like the best biographies, this book is also a portrait of a vanished world, and particularly the New Yorkof the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, a city of artists' studios and spiritualists' salons, shantytowns and millionaires' mansions, a city where the line between obscurity and adulation was seductively, treacherously thin. Impressively researched, filled with human drama and vivid period detail, and in the tradition of A Beautiful Mind and The Professor and the Madman, The Unknown Night is a seductive mixture of scholarship and storytelling.

  

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The unknown night: the madness and genius of R. A. Blakelock, an American painter

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The life of Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919) has long been left unexamined; likewise, the eerie nocturnal landscapes he painted are forgotten sidebars to the work of his more celebrated ... Read full review

Review: The Unknown Night: The Genius and Madness of RA Blakelock, an American Painter

User Review  - Kevin - Goodreads

I have always been drawn to Blakelock's paintings, because of their beauty and the hint of brooding and darkness. His landscapes often depict a stark twilight silhouette of trees with a fiery sky as ... Read full review

Contents

News
3
The Asylum
14
Beatrice Adams
20
Release
27
Blood and Art
33
From Yorkshire to New York
35
Village Life
42
The Blood
59
A Waterfall MoonlightA Taste of Success
176
Moonlight
189
Death and Vaudeville
191
The First Collapse
205
Recovery and Relapse
215
Money and Modern Art
228
Middletown and Catskill
235
Fame and Misfortune
247

The Art
74
On the Snake River
91
Up the Missouri River
93
Indian Paintings
103
The Pacific and Home
108
To Wyoming
112
On the Line
125
A Crisis
127
Marriage
136
Recognition and Controversy
143
East Orange
160
The Reinhardt Gallery Exhibit
249
The Real Mrs Adams
254
A Battle of HideandSeek
267
Two Years of Freedom
275
The Last Year
284
Epilogue
299
Source Notes
309
Selected Bibliography
339
Acknowledgments
343
Index
347
Copyright

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Page 1 - Lovers, and madmen, have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact.
Page 1 - I never went into the street, but I thought the people stared and laughed at me, and held me in contempt ; and I could hardly persuade myself, but that the voice of my conscience was loud enough for every one to hear it. They who knew me seemed to avoid me ; and if they spoke to me, they seemed to do it in scorn. I bought a ballad of one who was singing it in the street, because I thought it was written on me.

About the author (2003)

Vincent is a playwright and journalist who writes about the arts.

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