Henry Ward Ranger -

"Evening Sky," at left, from 1910, shows Henry Ward Ranger's preference for pastoral landscapes. Paintings depicting the harbors and coastal regions of the fishing and shipbuilding village of Noank document maritime activities and a timeless way of life.

Courtesy of the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Conn.


Henry Ward Ranger was born in central New York in 1858, son of Martha Marie Ranger and Ward Valencourt Ranger, who was a prize-winning photographer with a studio in Syracuse. It is unclear whether Henry's birthplace was Plymouth, Geneseo, or Syracuse. As of this writing (April 2008) Geneseo seems most likely as the family is known to have lived there at about the time Henry Ward was born.

We know, however, that by the time Ranger was 10, he and his family were established in Syracuse, where, in 1873, he was a freshman at the newly founded College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University. His father taught photography and drawing there.

He left school before earning a degree and went to work in his father's studio, where he began capturing the local landscape in watercolors. He was soon was exhibiting nationally.

In the late 1870s he moved to New York City, making a living writing music criticism. He traveled widely in the 1880s, primarily to England, Holland, and France. In northern Holland he was influenced by the picturesque landscapes and scenes of peasant life by Dutch artists Joseph Israels (1824-1911), Anton Mauve (1838-1888), and the Maris brothers. Of primary importance, however, was the influence in France of the Barbizon School, most notably its members Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena (1807-1876), and Adolphe Monticelli (1824-1886). Like the Barbizon painters, Ranger was more interested in mood and tone than descriptive detail.

Fusing his knowledge of European art with an interest in American subjects, Ranger created distinct landscape paintings that conveyed to his contemporaries a deep sense of history and an image of a pastoral way of life that was vanishing as America changed from an agrarian to an industrial society.

This page borrows heavily from "Old Lyme keeps a bit of Syracuse," SYRACUSE HERALD AMERICAN -- STARS MAGAZINE, Sunday, August 22, 1999, Art section, Nanci Fasoldt, Editor. Photo is from the Peter A. Juley and Son Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


The Woodcutters is typical of Ranger's favorite theme of the woods. The focal point is the large central tree, its expressive shape illuminated by the brilliant sunlight. Only after close scrutiny does one notice the two small woodcutters dwarfed by the logs and surrounding foliage. The woodcutters' diminutive scale does not obliterate the significance of their presence. The tree stump, felled tree, and woodcutter, which appear throughout nineteenth-century American landscape painting, symbolize settlement of the wilderness.

The painting is exemplary of Ranger's interest in a hazy uniform tonality of autumn scenes over an intensity of summer sunlight and shadow. Using the artist's own love of music as a metaphor, Ranger was a lover of symphonic rather than of operatic ensemble. The artist's intense colors and heavy paint compares to the sound of brass and beat of a drum. Indeed, one seeks in vain for a moment of relief from the uniform tones and texture.

Ranger covered his bare canvas first with a transparent glaze of yellow dissolved in a medium of mastic varnish to achieve the color most suggestive of sunlight. Into this glaze he painted his composition, painting and repainting with constant referral to the original pencil drawing that he felt contained the emotion. By so doing he hoped to combine the enthusiasm, vigor, and spontaneity of a sketch with the controlled subtlety that could only result from much labor.
Courtesy Brighan Young University Museum of Art

One hundred years ago, in 1899, as Ranger was traveling through Old Lyme, Connecticut on a train, he exclaimed, "This is a place just waiting to be painted!" He got off the train and took a room in the boarding house of Miss Florence Griswold and invited his friends from New York to join him and paint in and around this historic town. Thus began the Lyme Art Colony, one of the best-known art colonies in America. After establishing the Lyme Art Colony, Ranger moved to Noank, Connecticut in 1905. He died in his New York City studio in 1916.

In the 1912 photograph at right, Ranger creates one of his landscapes (Courtesy of the Florence Griswold Museum).


Details of ancestry of Henry Ward Ranger as follows:

Direct Descendants of Capt. Edmund Ranger, [The Emigrant]

Capt. Edmund Ranger, [The Emigrant] b: January 1636 in Dover, Kent, England d: November 1705 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts
*1st Wife of Capt. Edmund Ranger
+Sarah Fuller b: July 21, 1647 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts d: Bef. 1675 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts m: 1671 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts
Their son:
John Ranger b: April 16, 1674 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts d: February 13, 1718 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
+Elizabeth Wyllys b: Abt. 1676 m: October 9, 1695 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Their son:
Samuel Ranger b: Abt. 1706 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts d: Abt. 1815 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts
+Esther Dering b: June 7, 1710 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts d: June 5, 1750 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts m: August 5, 1740 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts
Their son:
Samuel Ranger, [French & Indian War] b: June 6, 1743 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts d: February 28, 1838 in East Hampton, Suffolk, New York
+Elizabeth Parsons b: in maybe Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts d: in East Hampton, Suffolk, New York m: Abt. 1768 in Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts
Their son:
Abraham Parsons Ranger, [War of 1812] b: 1775 in Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts d: Bef. 1820 in Taylor, Cortand, New York
+Martha Torrey b: July 15, 1776 in Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts d: July 20, 1852 in Plymouth, Chenango, New York m: January 5, 1799 in Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts
Their son:
John Torrey Ranger b: October 12, 1800 in Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts d: February 9, 1869 in probably Plymouth, Chenango, New York *2nd Wife of John Torrey Ranger:
+Janette Valencourt b: Abt. 1815 in Connecticut?? d: Abt. 1855 in Plymouth, Chenango, New York m: Abt. 1834
Their son:
Ward Valencourt Ranger b: Abt. 1835 in Plymouth, Chenango, New York d: in Syracuse, Onondaga, New York
+Martha Marie (Ranger) d: in Syracuse, Onondaga, New York m: in Syracuse, Onondaga, New York

As of September 1998 - If Ward V. Ranger's wife's maiden name was Ranger, then judging by her given name, Martha Marie, she is very likely a descendant of Hubert Ranger and would be a cousin to us. Hence, their son, Henry Ward Ranger, would be a distant cousin to us as well.
Their son:
Henry Ward Ranger b: January 29, 1858 in Syracuse, Onondaga, New York d: November 7, 1916 in New York City, New York
+ Helen Jennings

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