This article concludes my short account of the career and paintings of the Nabi painter and artist Paul Ranson (1861–1909), which I started in my previous article about him.
Diana the Huntress near a Lake from the period 1894-96 is one of Ranson’s relatively few mythological works. True to tradition, Diana is distinguished by the “hunter’s” moon in her hair, and her collection of dead game. But Ranson stops short of depicting the Ovidian myth of the death of Actaeon.
During the final years of the Nabis, his paintings became increasingly pastoral and realist, as in his Three Bathers among the Irises from 1896, one of several variations on this theme.
He still held to Nabi style in some works, such as this Sitting Woman from about 1898. She sits in a barren garret, a stocking dangling from the window, attending to her nails. Ranson has imposed fluid patterning on the bare floorboards and beams.
Saint Anthony and His Pig from about 1898 reveals Ranson’s steady departure from Nabi style, is another narrative painting, and a religious work. It shows the association between Saint Anthony/Antony (the Great) and a pig, peculiarly combining visual reference to his more famous temptation in the nude lying on the grass near him.
Legend claims that, during his early period as a hermit, Saint Anthony was a swineherd. Another legend claims that he healed a pig, as a result of which he is the patron saint of domesticated animals. Yet another legend claims that a pig was responsible for him keeping to the appointed hours for prayer, and that led in turn to the contracted term tantony pig, which has come to mean the smallest pig of the litter.
By the turn of the century, Ranson was in a confluence of decorative design, Art Nouveau, and the remains of his Nabi style. This is most apparent in this extraordinary design for upholstery based on Water Lilies from about 1898.
He experimented with the traditional medium of distemper (glue tempera) in this Japoniste painting of Digitales in 1899.
Ranson was a skilful painter in pastels, as shown in his Fallen Stars from 1900, in which he also used gouache. This refers back to his earlier paintings of witchcraft, and is one of his few nocturnes.
Apple Tree with Red Fruit from 1902 is perhaps one of Ranson’s better-known works from late in his career, and shows the high chroma which he used.
Some of his landscapes from this time are surprisingly realist, even conventional, such as his Three Beeches from about 1905.
At about the same time, he took similar trees to tell the folk tale of Little Red Riding Hood (c 1905). The black wolf here is lying in wait for the girl wearing a bright red hat in the distance, who is on her way to visit her granny in the forest.
Two Nymphs Surprised by a Rider from about 1905 is a pastel painting which revisits the theme of nude bathers by a pond, here with references to classical mythology.
Ranson’s Bathers from about 1906 is another late variation on the same theme, which adds a Sphinx at the left and strong colour contrasts in red and green.
In 1908, with his experience of the Académie Julian, Ranson and his wife Marie-France set up their own school, the Académie Ranson. It enjoyed the support of other Nabis as teachers, including Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier. It developed a good reputation, and eventually closed in 1955. Among its many alumni are the sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) and the painter Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980).
Paul Ranson died in Paris on 20 February 1909, at the very young age of 44.