Major Retropective Honors Greenpoint Artist

Questroyal Gallery at 903 Park Avenue in Manhattan will host an important retrospective of great Greenpoint painter Ralph Blakelock from November 11th through December 10th. The show is titled “Ralph Albert Blakelock: The Great Mad Genius Returns” and will feature many of his works.
screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-1-56-13-pmBlakelock has been called by the highly influential art critic Edward Alden Jewell “one of the greatest artists America has produced.” Blakelock was a true visionary who started out painting landscapes, but realized that a painter had to look inward for subject matter and not worry about reproducing nature on the canvas. It is no exaggeration to say that Blakelock’s work set the stage for modernism in painting.

Like many avant-guard geniuses, Blakelock suffered greatly in life. He fell in love with a local beauty, Cora Bailey from Milton Street. They married in 1877 and had ten children together. He tried to support his family through sales of his works, but few people appreciated his artistic vision. The tension created by trying to feed his large family and painting in his radically new style led Blakelock over the edge and in 1899 he suffered his final mental breakdown and was institutionalized for twenty years.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-1-20-53-pmYears after Blakelock was committed to the mental hospital, his paintings, artistic tastes changed and his previously unappreciated works began to sell for huge sums. In 1916 at an auction at the Plaza Hotel his paintings fetched higher prices than Renoir or Monet; however neither Blakelock, nor his family benefitted from the sales. My book Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past tells the story of how a con artist tricked Blakelock’s wife into giving away power of attorney. The con-woman made a fortune selling Blakelock’s works, but his impoverished family never saw a dime.

Today Blakelock’s works fetch massive sums. In 2005 Blakelock’s famous painting Indian Encampment sold for three-and-a-half million dollars. You might not have enough money to buy a Blakelock canvas, but you can enjoy the Greenpoint artist’s exhibit next month for free.

About Geoff Cobb

Geoffrey Cobb is a Brooklyn high school history teacher and writer of the blog historicgreenpoint.wordpress.com. He has lived in Greenpoint for over 20years and is the author of a book on the history of the area, "Greenpoint Brooklyn's Forgotten Past."

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