Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paintings, Ellis Ruley

Norwich CT, 1882 - 1959

Mr Ruley was born, lived and died near where I grew up.  The last two years of his life and the first two of mine coincide.  He and his wife were the first integrated couple in the area.  He was American of African ancestry and she was German.  His family believes he was murdered by racists (some years earlier his son in law was found dead at the bottom of a well, likely killed by a neighbor) and I believe them.  He was a construction worker who painted in his spare time; and he didn’t just start in retirement, he’d been at it for some years.  He used house paints and found supports, cardboard, masonite and such.   He had one public exhibit, in 1952, in Norwich at the Free Art Academy.  He drew inspiration from magazine photographs and his imagination.  His work reminds me of my grandfather’s paintings in the way that he painted.  Though my grandfather was a very different sort of man, they were both of the same generation and general area.  It makes sense that their ideas of how a painting should convey its information would be so similar (but the stories they told were profoundly different.)

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