Best place to see decaying masterpieces and forgeries - 2006
Metropolitan Museum's study collection
Of the four Albert Pinkham Ryders on display in the Metropolitan Museum's study collection (tucked into the mezzanine under the American Wing and open to the public), only one was actually painted by the New York visionary of crepuscular landscapes and darkling ships under jaundiced moons—and it is falling apart. Ryder (1847–1917) influenced many artists—from regional scene painters to Jackson Pollock—but he was an atrocious technician, applying bitumen (a tarry substance used for embalming mummies) and other exotic concoctions to his wood-panel grounds. The ashen upper surface of the one authentic Ryder, Curfew Hour (1882), has pulled apart like primordial continents, leaving a dun-colored sky as crenellated as skull's teeth and a wine-dark underpainting congealed into a gorgeous, if accidental, abstraction. Other not-ready-for-prime-time works include a now anonymous banal landscape once attributed to Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hewes Hinckley's 1851 painting Rats Among the Barley Sheaves, which shows nary a crack in its immaculate surface.