Nelson, Ralph Lewis (1885-1967)
Ralph Lewis Nelson was born on February 2, 1885, in Coal City, Illinois. After his mother died when he was two and a half years old, he was raised by his aunts and uncles. He attended Baptist College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it was there that he received his first formal art training. He also studied commercial art. He studied art at the Cleveland School of Art, Des Moines School of Art, Cochran School in Washington, D.C., and the Art Students League in New York. Nelson worked for newspapers around the country including the Cleveland Press, Washington Star, Washington Times, New York Herald, and New York World. During World War I he enlisted in the Marines where he created publicity and recruiting artwork. He conceived of the concept and design for the Uncle Sam I Want You poster that Montgomery Flagg went on to paint. After the War Nelson moved to New York City and married Bernice Merrill. Throughout the 1920s he worked free-lance, focusing on illustrations and book jacket designs. In 1928 he moved from New York to Wilton, Connecticut. Prior to the WPA Federal Arts Project, he worked for the Public Works of Art Project. He began working for the WPA in 1935, completing 118 easel works that were allocated to many public institutions across the state. He also completed many murals, some of which have been lost. During World War II Nelson painted triptychs for portable altars that were sent overseas. He spent the last 27 years of his life in Bethlehem, Connecticut. For the last ten years of his life he was legally blind but continued to paint. He was an active exhibitor at the Kent and Washington Art Associations and helped found the annual art show at the Bethlehem Fair. He also assisted in the formation of Artists and Writers of Connecticut. Nelson died on May 7, 1967, and is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery, Bethlehem, Connecticut.
Sources: WPA Artist’s Work Card; WPA Biography; Thomas R. Egan, The Sunday Republican Magazine, October 11, 1964; Carolyn Gonzales; “Some Biographical Information on Ralph Nelson,” October 1999; AskART; Social Security Death Index; “Ralph Lewis Nelson, February 2, 1885-May 7, 1967”;Who Was Who In American Art (1986), p. 445; “Schools Will Get Mural Panels Soon,” Hartford Courant, December 18, 1936.
Works of Art Listed in CT Archives’ database from Ralph Nelson:
Indian Invitation: oil Hillside Farm: oil Arrival of 10 Settlers in Wethersfield: oil Hockey: watercolor Meeting of the Railroads: watercolor Building a Skyscraper: watercolor Children Wading: watercolor Farm House: oil The Picnic Mart: oil 3 Sketches: oil Grumman Hill: watercolor Spring: oil Pied Piper of Hamlin: oil Cinderella: oil Rip Van Winkle Country: oil When Winter Comes: oil Oak Trees in Winter: oil Winter Sunlight and Blue Shadows: oil Turbulent Waters: watercolor Fishing Shacks: watercolor Gray Day on the Marshes: oil Water Lilies: waterc-lor Spring Shower: watercolor Old Mill- Lovers Lane: black pastel Connecticut Trees & Rocks: black pastel Waterfall in the Woods: black pastel Log Jam: black pastel Silent Places: black pastel Winter Sketch: black pastel In the Catskills: oil Fox Haven: black pastel Abandoned: black pastel No Sign of Spring: oil Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe: oil Public Mart in Wallingford: Bend in the River: oil Witch’s House: watercolor Snow Scene: watercolor Man in Pillory: oil Wethersfield Public Mart: oil Backyard in Wilton: oil Snow Scene: oil The Pool: watercolor The One that Got Away: watercolor Old Mill Bridge- Norwalk: watercolor Head of Old Lady: watercolor Snow Scene- Grauman Hill, Wilton: watercolor Lull Before the Storm: watercolor The Sunny Corner: watercolor Old Trout Stream: watercolor Long Island Sound: watercolor The Deserted Mill: watercolor Grandmother’s Dress: watercolor Still Life: watercolor Sundown: watercolor Winter Morning: watercolor Man in Stocks: oil Some Place in Connecticut: watercolor Study: watercolor Fishing Boy: watercolor Early Fall: oil Fishing Girl: watercolor Fishing Shacks: watercolor Colored Girl: watercolor Girl’s Head: watercolor Memories: watercolor Winter Scene: oil Peaceful Valley: oil Fall Scene: oil The Old Ice House: oil Melting Snow: oil Old Man and Oxen: oil Connecticut Farm in Winter: oil Sundown: oil Old Mill: oil Up for the Winter: oil November Snow: oil Sailing Ships in Battle (Olmstead’s Battle): oil Buying Land from the Podunk Indians: oil French Soldiers (Being Paid Off): oil Conn. Valley Tobacco Farm: oil Man Plowing: oil United Air Craft Scene: oil House that Jack Built: oil Snow Scene: oil Conn. Hills in Winter: oil Riding High or Flying High: oil Rolling Along: oil Surprise Snow: oil Sundown: oil October Color: oil Through the Trees: oil Valley Farm or “Farm House”: oil Winter Brook: oil October Moods: oil Old Covered Bridge: oil Clear and Cold: oil Day Dreams: watercolor Waterfall: oil Little Girl – Ducks & Chickens: watercolor Glory Lilies: watercolor Bend in the Road: watercolor Seascape: oil Winter Evening: oil Indian Chief: oil Gnomeville Art Colony: watercolor Through the Cottonwood Trees: watercolor Blue Shadows- Morning: watercolor Indian War Clouds: oil Silver Birches: watercolor Fisherman’s Cup Race: watercolor Another Snow: oil Melting Snow: watercolor Winter Stream: watercolor Dickery, Dickery, Dare: watercolor Oh Where, Oh Where is my Little Wee Dog: watercolor One of Those Silent Places: oil October Day: oil Making the Best of It: oil Little Jack Jingle: watercolor Hickory, Dickery, Dock: watercolor Snow: oil Valley Farm: oil Old Mill Road: oil Snow Scene: oil Arrival of First Settlers: oil Somewhere in Wilton: oil Early Fall: watercolor Winters Blanket: oil There Was a Monkey: watercolor January Morning: oil October 21st: oil After Sundown: oil January Afternoon: oil Look- Side House Winter: oil Snow on the Mountain: oil Spring Comes to Guild’s Hollow: oil The Old Grist Mill: oil Sunset in the Berkshires: oil Short Days: oil November Morning: oil Tides In: oil Solomon’s Island- Maryland: oil December Sunset: oil Lookout Hill: oil Old Toll Bridge: oil Snow Village: oil Mountain Stillness: oil Pageant of Color: oil Old Sawmill: oil Moods of November: oil From My Attic Window: oil White Thanksgiving: oil When Winter Comes: oil This is Connecticut: oil Winter Patterns: oil Weathering Another Winter: oil Melting Snow: oil Maple Sugar Time: oil Back Road: oil Winter Evening: oil Signs of Spring: oil Spring: oil Early Weaving Industry: oil The Birth of Industry: oil Autumn: