Born in New York City, Ralph Blakelock earned a reputation for nocturnal, misty scenes, especially moonlit landscapes, large oak trees, and Indian encampments. He also did a small number of floral still lifes. His work has a mysterious quality, which some associated with the type of music he habitually played on the piano during interludes from his painting. Towards the end of his career, his paintings became increasingly haunting, a reflection of his insanity brought on by horrible poverty and his inability to support his family of nine children. He was both a late exponent of the Hudson River School of painting and also of the American West. He also foreshadowed the romantic, visionary, and modern tendencies that marked the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. This romanticism, especially of escapism, was increasingly pronounced towards the end of his career. Blakelock was the son of a prominent English-born, New York physician, and first took medical studies, but his love of music and art led him away from medicine. He graduated from the College of the City of New York, studied briefly at Cooper Union, and at the Free Academy of the City of New York. In 1867, he first exhibited at the National Academy of Design to which he was ultimately elected, after he was incarcerated for insanity. During this time, he painted a series of New York City scenes, primarily of un-glamorous areas such as his work, Shanties, New York City. He also painted in Hudson River Style and was in locations that included the Adirondacks and the White Mountain. It is thought he learned this style during his brief and only art education at Cooper Union. Primarily self taught, he declined his father's offer to pay for more extensive art schooling, and instead, at age 22, embarked on a three-year (1869-1972) horseback tour of the West. He lived with plains Indians, painting pictures of their villages, and traveled and painted through the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas. In San Francisco and Oakland, he painted city scenes, the tree landscapes, and coastal views, and then he headed south to Mexico. These western paintings were also in the Hudson River style, although they were rough and more painterly. Returning to New York, he developed what became his signature expression: quiet, moody, nocturnal scenes accented with bright colors depicting light, and trees silhouetted against the sky. He had a labor-intensive technique, which was building up of multi layers of thick paint, scraping some away, and "adding more to build a complex tonality". (Zellman 420) It is said that his real travels were introspective from which he created these moody, dark landscapes, and they did not satisfy the current public taste for uplifting Hudson River style painting. Ahead of popular taste, his work was overlooked, and crooked dealers took advantage of him. With the desperation of trying to support his huge family, he sold his work cheaply. Ironically, many years after his death, his work became so valuable that forgers, including a dealer who changed the signature on canvases of Blakelock's artist daughter, Marian, to that of her father, sold paintings at very high prices by using his signature. Norman Geske, Director Emeritus of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, became the authenticator of Blakelock's work, and has seen many, many illegitimate so-called Blakelocks. Under Geske's direction, a catalogue raisonne has been published that classifies paintings with Blakelock's signature into three categories according to their degree of perceived authenticity. In 1899, the artist had a mental breakdown and spent the last twenty years of his life in an asylum in Middleton, New York. He died on August 9, 1919. However, his work had already begun increasing in value, and by 1916 was bringing as high as $20,000. Of Blakelock's career, Norman Geske wrote: "Considered in the context of American landscape painting in the second half of the nineteenth century, Ralph Albert Blakelock can be seen first as a late exponent of the Hudson River School, second as a highly personal contributor to the painting of the American West, and third and most important, as part of the romantic, visionary, and modern tendencies that marked the turn of the century."(16)
Helen Glieforst Impressionist Landscape Born in Crete, Nebraska on February 10, 1903, Helen Gleiforst moved with her family shortly thereafter to San Diego, California. In 1918 her family relocated to Eugene, Oregon, and in 1920 Helen attended the University of Oregon. Because of her father's health, the family returned to Southern California. She married realtor Fred Gleiforst in 1923 and settled in Beverly Hills. It was in the late 1920s that she began to paint and draw. Her teachers included Nicolai Fechin, George Melcher, and John Hubbard Rich. Her instruction with Dedrick Stuber influenced her landscapes and Nell Walker Warner influenced her floral paintings. By the mid-1930s she had established a local reputation as an artist. She became a frequent exhibitor at one man shows in local venues. In the 1950s she had an exhibit at Stanford University. With her husband's retirement in 1960 she began to travel throughout California where she painted many of her landscapes. She stopped her artistic work in the 1980s because of poor health. The full extent of her output became evident after her death when an heir discovered over 500 paintings stored in her home. These works show the strong impressionistic expression of her work that was characteristic of the early plein-air painters of California. Gleiforst died in Los Angeles, California on May 28, 1997. Exhibited: Ebell Society; Beverly Hills & Westwood Women's Clubs; Clearwater Jr. High School, 1936.
Sioma Lifshitz arrived in Shanghai on a freighter from Vladivostock in 1922. The 20 years old energetic Russian jew had no money but lot’s of dreams and soon started to work in a photography studio under the name of Sam Sanzetti. It took him 5 years to open in own studio in 1927, becoming one of the most famous photographer in Shanghai. The studio was first located on 73 Nanking Road (today 73 Nanjing Dong Lu), near the Bund and just behind the Palace hotel (today Swatch Art Peace Hotel). Construction on the Cathay Hotel (today Peace Hotel) was on-going at that time very and the opening in 1929 certainly also helped his business. The central position in the business center allowed him to become the photographer of the rich and famous in Shanghai, surely meeting with other successful business people of the time. His office later moved to 39 Peking Road (today Beijing Dong Lu) as reported in 1938 Shanghai Dollar Directory. Some of his photographs clearly remind of the calendar ads from the Carl Crowe company located very close on 81 JinKe lu and both men hanging around in similar circles probably worked with each other at some point. Sam Sanzetti left Shanghai in 1957 to immigrate to Israel leaving a Chinese wife and a stepdaughter behind and remade his life in his new country. He had fun memories of Shanghai as explained in an interview with an Israeli Newspaper years later. However he was never able to come back to Shanghai before his death in 1986.
Born in New York City in 1836, Ransome Holdredge came to California via the Isthmus of Panama in 1858 and worked as a draftsman at the Mare Island Naval Yard. His paintings of the 1860s and early 1870s were signed "Holdridge" and were done in the realistic style of the Hudson River School. During this period he maintained a studio in San Francisco's Donahoe-Kelly Bank Bldg and exhibited locally. In 1874 he and Hiram Bloomer held a joint sale of their paintings to finance European studies. He left in that year and spent about two years studying in France. His obituary states that he was a field artist for Scribner's publications and was with Major Reno's troops at the time of the Custer massacre in 1876. After his studies in France, he returned to San Francisco with a distinctly different style. Paintings done after that time show the influence of the Barbizon School and were signed "Holdredge." His works were in great demand during his lifetime, received rave reviews by the local press, and were often considered superior to those done by William Keith. Holdredge traveled extensively throughout the Northwest, Southwest, the Rockies and western Canada, often living for long periods of time among the various Indian tribes. Due to his malnutrition and alcoholism, his paintings done during the latter part of his life were not of good quality. Like his friend Jules Tavernier, he made considerable money as an artist but did not manage his money well. He died penniless at the Alameda County (CA) Infirmary in April 1899 and was buried at public expense. ASSOCIATIONS San Francisco Art Association (cofounder) Bohemian Club EXHIBITIONS California State Fair, 1881-83 Mechanics' Institute (SF), 1868, 1880, 1886 COLLECTIONS Bohemian Club Oakland Museum Society of California Pioneers Orange County Museum California Historical Society Nevada Museum (Reno) Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley) Crocker Museum (Sacramento) Oregon Historical Society Source: Edan Hughes,