Anne Ryan was born in 1889 to a prosperous Irish family in Hoboken, New Jersey. She lived a sheltered girlhood that included a comfortable brownstone home, trips to the seashore, and a convent education. Anne's banker father wrote poetry in his spare time. In her teens, however, the death of both her parents, her mother of suicide, shattered the quiet picture of Anne's life. She and her three younger brothers were left in the care of their grandmother.

At twenty-one Anne left college to marry William McFadden, but Anne could not immerse herself in a traditional marriage. Her temperament and, at that time an impulse to write, required a wider circle. After three children and many separations and reconciliations, Anne left the marriage in 1923.

For several years she struggled to raise her children on a small income and wrote poetry and fiction. Her spirit, however, remained strong and free and in 1931, Anne traveled with her children to Spain to broaden her scope as a writer. Global economic pressures forced her home in 1933. This move brought Anne and her children to Greenwich Village. Here she continued to write and be increasingly exposed to the excitement and vision of contemporary painting. In the 30s the Village was dense with gifted, young artists defining themselves in entirely new, abstract ways. The atmosphere was one of energy and rebirth. Anne responded to it and at the age of forty-nine began to paint.

Fellow artists such as Hans Hofmann and Tony Smith encouraged Anne to develop her own style and experiment. "You might turn out better than the lot of us," Hofmann told her. Anne's first formal training was at Atelier XVII, the studio founded by Stanley William Hayter. Here she observed mature artists at work and became immersed in technique. She explored automatism and surrealism. She had absorbed, during her apprenticeship, the lessons of contemporary art in the 1940s.

Throughout her career Ryan switched media, creating paintings, wood-block prints and painting-like collages. By the early 1950s these works were shown in New York at Betty Parsons Gallery and were included in the 9th Street Show and the Museum of Modern Art's "American Painting and Sculpture" in 1951.

Anne Ryan's work abruptly ceased in 1954 when she died of a stroke. She was sixty-four years old. Of her work, critic Donald Windham said, "All her life she was capable of being excited to work by the art of others; at the same time, her character was so rich that what she did immediately became her own."


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