Ranger was born January 28, 1858 in Western New York. He became well known for both his landscape paintings in water colors and oils and as a marine painter. As a young man he studied for two years at Syracuse University. He moved to New York City in 1878 where he came into contact with works of the French Barbizon School. He supported himself by writing music and theatre reviews for New York newspapers. In 1883 he married Helen Jennings, a divorced actress with a son. Together with his newly acquired family, Ranger moved to Europe. They first traveled to Paris but ultimately settled in Laren, Holland where he became active with the Hague School of painters: Joseph Israels, Anton Mauve and the Maris brothers. Once accepted by the members of the Hague School, Ranger sent paintings to the salons of Paris in the late 1880s and acquired patronage from leading Dutch collectors. He moved back to New York in 1888 and began cultivating American clients. He held a major exhibition at Knoedler Galleries in 1892 that received positive reviews. In 1894 he held an exhibition in the Macbeth Gallery, NY, with many paintings he made during a sketching trip to Canada. He was the first member of the Florence Griswold circle in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he helped establish an art colony between 1899 and 1900. In a bedroom in Center Hall of the art colony is a painting in a door panel of the Bow Bridge, ca. 1900 which Ranger painted in a Tonalist manner. He became known as a leader in the “Tonal” school of painting and is credited with establishing the term “Tonalist”. He became a National Academician in 1906 and also a member of the American Water Color Society. Both the Corcran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, PA own Ranger paintings. The former owns "Top of the Hill" and the latter "East River Idyll".
Many critics at the turn of the century believed Ranger to be among America’s best landscape painters. This point of view is well expressed by the following observation of Ranger at the Old Lyme Colony of painters:
“There of a summer night, one may see, smoking his cigar, the bulky form of Henry Ranger, one of our greatest living landscape painters, and one of the first to make famous with splendid canvases the extraordinary beauty of the Lyme country.”
Journalist Anthony H. Euwer, 1904.
In the year that this was written, Ranger removed from Old Lyme, (while remaining friendly with the artists of that colony) but moved to paint landscapes in Noank, CT. The artist colony in Old Lyme continued to flourish and a new and more colorful era began when Childe Hassam arrived and brought with him the bright colors of impressionism. Ranger died in New York City on November 7, 1916.
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