Artwork Information

  • Title:

    River Men (On the Savannah)

  • Artist:

    Ruellan, Andree

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1905–2006

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    Oil on canvas

  • Dimensions:

    18 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, Volunteers of the Gift Shop

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

This oil on canvas titled River Men (On the Savannah) was painted about 1940 at a site along the Savannah River in Georgia by the American artist Andree Ruellan. Thematically the work clearly represents the con­tinuation into the 20th century of the anecdotal genre tradition established by such artists as William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham, and Richard Caton Woodville and which was popular in America during the decades preceding the Civil War.

Here, located in the foreground of the composition is a small wooden cabin situated at the edge of the wide river running parallel to the picture plane. To the right is a casually arranged group of five men informally chat­ting, while inside the cabin is a seated woman, barely visible through the small open door. Patches of blue sky, a swollen river with its blue-green water and leafless but brightly illuminated trees on the far side of the river impart clarity to the composition. At the same time, they suggest a late winter setting.

All the forms are tightly drawn and precisely outlined. Otherwise, brushstrokes are freely applied in small but broad intersecting daubs, thus imparting a strong faceted statuesque effect to the figures throughout the composition. Indeed, the artist is ob­viously more interested here in defining volumetric form than in furnishing meticulous details, a fact which quite possibly reflects her study of sculpture on one hand and the influence of training under Robert Henri on the other.

A point of special interest is the attention given by the artist to the use of black subjects throughout the com­position. This is easily explained in part by her own longstanding sympathy for the plight of black Americans. More significant, however, is the fact that the work was executed in 1940 when the issue of racial inequities had begun to emerge from the social climate of the Great Depression and was already engaging the attention of some Americans prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Ruellan was born in 1905 in New York City. At an ex­tremely young age she embarked upon a career in art. She was a child prodigy, participating before she was 9 years old in New York Exhibitions with such notables as Henri and George Bellows. At age 15 she studied sculpture with Leo Lentelli and drawing with Maurice Sterne at the Art Students League in New York.

In 1922 she won a one-year scholarship for study in Rome, after which she spent five years in Paris where she met and married the artist John W. Taylor. When she and her husband returned to the States in 1929, they settled in Woodstock, New York. Her works are included in major museum collections throughout America.