PAINTINGS of WILLIAM BRUCE ELLIS RANKEN (1881- 1941)

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THE MODERNIST JOURNALS PROJECT: From: Wendy and Gordon Hawksley: William Bruce Ellis Ranken was born in Edinburgh in 1881, the second son of Robert Burt Ranken, a prosperous lawyer, and his wife Mary. He was educated at Eton and The Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks. He had his first one man exhibition at the Carfax Gallery, London in 1904, a gallery much favoured by Sargent at that time. Moving in the circles of Edwardian aesthetes, it is known that he was well acquainted with Sargent by 1908 and Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn.

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By 1914 he was living at 14 Cheltenham Terrace, Chelsea, a couple of minutes walk away from Sargent’s studio in Tite Street. Unable to serve in the First World War due the effects of childhood polio, he subsequently went to America on a commission through Sargent. He had his first one man exhibition there in January 1916 at the Doll & Richards Gallery, Boston. Sargent introduced him to Isabella Stewart Gardner who acquired his watercolour ‘In a Turkish Garden’. Later that same year he had a one man exhibition at the Galleries of M Knoedler & Co in New York and by this time had had commissions by other prominent Americans such as the Vanderbilts, Whitneys and Havemeyers, probably due to introductions effected by Sargent.

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(c) Nottingham City Museums and Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Nottingham City Museums and Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Look @ 66 of his paintings HERE @ BBC
WILLIAM BRUCE ELLIS RANKEN website

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(c) National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A prolific artist, he worked equally in oil and watercolour and his work included portraits, interiors, landscapes and still life. His subjects included members of the British Royal Family and aristocracy. Throughout his life he traveled widely, with France being a particularly favourite destination. He exhibited at virtually all the major Galleries and Societies in Great Britain and became a Member of The National Portrait Society, The Royal Institute of Oil Painters, The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, The Royal Society Portrait Painters and The Pastel Society.

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(c) Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

By 1921, thanks to his success in America, he had acquired Warbrook House at Eversley in Hampshire, a substantial 18th century property and estate. He appears to have returned to America in the mid 1920’s and had a one man exhibition of interiors at Wildenstein & Co., Inc. in New York in January 1931 and an exhibition of portraits at Knoedler & Co, New York in late 1933. Affected by the Depression, he returned to England, was forced to sell his beloved Warbrook and moved to the south wing of the nearby Farley Hill Place, another prominent English country house, the home of one of his sisters who had married into the family of the Earls of Elgin and Kincardine.

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(c) Salford Museum & Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Salford Museum & Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Like Sargent, Ranken was unmarried. He died suddenly in London in 1941 and was buried in the churchyard at Eversley. In January 1943 his American patrons and friends, who had included people such as Mrs. Lars Anderson, Mrs. Otto Kahn, Mrs. Dave Hennen Morris, Miss Anne Morgan, Elsie de Wolfe and Mrs Ector Munn, organised a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Ferargil Galleries in New York.

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Museums Northern Ireland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Museums Northern Ireland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The contents of his studios in New York and London, about 100 works, were not dispersed until 1946 when, according to his wishes, they were distributed to provincial art galleries in Great Britain by his sister, Janette who had married Ranken’s lifelong friend, the actor Ernest Thesiger who had had his portrait drawn by Sargent in about 1911. Despite a very active life in society and artistic circles, Ranken’s name is scarcely known today and this is possibly reflected in the very sad fact that only one of his paintings is on public display in Great Britain, his ‘Olga Alberta, Baroness de Meyer’ (painted in Venice in 1907) at Leeds City Art Gallery.

(c) York Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) York Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Gallery Oldham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Gallery Oldham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Salford Museum & Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Salford Museum & Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Army Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Army Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Southampton City Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Southampton City Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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3 Responses

  1. STEPHEN POLTERZISKY

    Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful artist. It made curious to read anything I could find about him. One interesting item I found about him was that his life long friend & lover was Ernest Thesiger, the British actor who played Dr Polidorus in the Bride of Frankenstein. Mr Ranken lived a very fascinating life,that many of us would find envious. Thank You again.

    July 21, 2015 at 10:57 am

  2. BigBen

    Ditto to what Mr Polterzisky says. This is the sort of post that I love Sissydude for. Anyone can do porn ( don’t stop that though! ) but these keep expanding my mind. Bliss! Blessings on your house and a kiss to Sebastian.

    July 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm

  3. sadko

    these portraits are glimpes into a favorite time for men’s style….they were coming into their own , for many reasons…and Ranken was quite accomplisehd. hope they do a retrospect of his works in the future…makes me wonder how many other artist, we dont really know about regarding that epoch. A special thank u and appreciation…..just coming back from the UK happy to see this style making a comeback..it really is a classic and quite sexy look!

    August 8, 2015 at 5:54 pm

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