Randolph Coats was born in Richmond, Indiana and studied at the John Herron Art School in Indianapolis with William Forsyth, the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts under Frank Duveneck, and abroad. Coats lived and kept studios in Indianapolis and Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he had a summer school. He spent time painting in the Smoky Mountains and Indiana’s Brown County. His favorite subjects were landscapes, but he was also well-known for his portraits and figure painting. Coats painted Indiana Governors Ralph Gates and Henry Schricker and restored 36 portraits of other governors. He made two documentary films, One Hundred Years of Art and Artists of Indiana and New England Art Colonies. Coats was a charter member and President of the Indiana Artists’ Club, which is still in existence.
One of eight paintings emphasizing the bleaker aspects of Cincinnati, River View Row depicts a cluster of tenements near the Ohio River. Coats was almost certainly following the lead of New York’s Ashcan School painters, such as John Sloan, whose Red Kimono on the Roof has a similar composition. Like the Ashcan School artists, Coats offers an unsentimentalized version of city life, portraying the weedy disorder of the scene and the bare, spindly trees. In 1921, shortly after painting River View Row, Coats went to Europe where he developed the smooth, refined style that characterized the remainder of his career.
Additional information can be found in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Stout Library.