The Flying Dutchman (c. 1887) by Albert Pinkham Ryder

The Flying Dutchman - Albert Pinkham Ryder - 1887

Artwork Information

TitleThe Flying Dutchman
ArtistAlbert Pinkham Ryder
MediumOil on Canvas mounted on fiberboard
Dimensions14 1/4 x 17 1/4 in. (36.1 x 43.8 cm)
Art MovementSymbolism
Current LocationNational Museum of American Art, Washington

About The Flying Dutchman

The artwork “The Flying Dutchman,” crafted by Albert Pinkham Ryder in 1887, is an oil on canvas piece that has been mounted on fiberboard. Situated in the National Museum of American Art in Washington, this painting measures 14 1/4 by 17 1/4 inches (36.1 x 43.8 cm). Belonging to the Symbolism art movement, it encapsulates a mythological theme that resonates through its composition and execution.

In the artwork, one observes a tempestuous seascape characterized by a tumultuous atmosphere. The central motif—a ghostly vessel—seems to be enveloped by swirling clouds and surging waves, an embodiment of motion and turmoil. The palette is predominantly dark and moody, featuring a spectrum of dusky browns, blacks, and whites, which enhances the enigmatic and haunting quality of the scene. The faint glow of a yellow orb, which could be interpreted as the moon or sun, breaks through the overcast sky, offering a stark contrast to the otherwise somber tones.

The textural quality of the painting is pronounced, with visible cracks and a dynamic brushwork that contribute to the overall illusion of chaotic movement and spectral mystique—a hallmark of Ryder’s style. The artwork captures the essence of the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a doomed ship fated to sail the oceans forever, encapsulating themes of the supernatural and the futility of man’s struggle against the forces of nature.

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