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 Jan De Ruth  (1922 - 1991)

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Lived/Active: New York / Czech Republic      Known for: figure-nude and portrait painting, printmaking

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Ad Code: 3
Jan De Ruth
from Auction House Records.
Nude with Yellow Towel
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from
Listed "Who was Who in American Art"
Born Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia
Studied: Rotter Art School, Prague; Ruskin Art School, Oxford University, England; ASL New York; New School, NY; also with Frederic Taubes.
Exhibited: 38 National Juried Exhibitions, 14 Museum Solo Shows and 51 Gallery Solo Exhibitions.
Author: Portrait Painting, 1964; Painting the Nude, 1968.

It's a long way from sketching in leftover coffee to painting a portrait of Ethel Kennedy for the cover of Time Magazine, twenty-five years in fact; and during that period, Jan De Ruth's personal experiences have been enough to fill two ordinary lifetimes. Through them all, art has sustained him and been his primary interest.

To begin with, De Ruth, a native of Czechoslovakia and now an American citizen, spent the years of World War II being shunted through five different concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz.  He made four escape attempts and finally made good on his fifth try.

De Ruth constantly sought materials with which to draw, but "The only things we had were the few pieces of cloth we wore," he recalls.  By chance, he was transferred to Germany as part of a labor detail and managed to sneak a pencil away from the camp supervisor. "I became a perfect thief during those years," he says. De Ruth drew a mother and child on a scrap of paper he scrounged from the factory where he worked and filled it in with shadings of coffee in various strengths-his finger was his brush.  He exchanged the sketch for a piece of bread from a camp guard, and in effect, sold his first painting.

In March of 1945, after being transferred to his native Czechoslovakia, he made his successful escape "knowing every step of the way."  After the war, De Ruth became the commissar in a small Czech town and remained in the post for one year, just long enough to forge some documents that allowed him to flee to England.  He took up residence in London and enrolled at the Ruskin Art School in Oxford University.  He arrived in the USA in 1948.

There are times in the life of a painter when his dedication to his art is overshadowed by the immediate requirements of self-preservation.  This was one of those times! From '48 to 1955 he supported himself by working at night, earning his way painting designs on neckties and bathroom cups; as a fashion designer, illustrator, vacuum cleaner salesman, theatre manager, and actor.  In '55 Jan De Ruth made his professional debut as a full-time artist and two years later his first one-man show established him as a serious painter.

His work has been acclaimed for combining the technique of the Old Masters with a modern manner, and has been exhibited in more than 40 one-man shows in galleries and museums across the United States.  He has been judged positively by juries in 28 national exhibitions, and his numerous awards include the Purchase Prize of the Butler Institute of American Art, and the Gold Medal of the National Arts Club.

De Ruth, author of the books Portrait Painting and Painting the Nude, has devoted his entire life to painting the female face and form.  He enjoys special popularity as a portraitist, and has become one of the best known painters of the nude female in the world today.  Often asked why he concentrates on this most demanding of all art subjects, he replies: . . . "Each painting of the nude becomes a new experience . . . It (the human figure) is nature's most perfect and most imperfect creation, communicating, even in silence and immobility, the physical and spiritual power-and frailty-of humanity."

Articulate, sophisticated, outspoken and well informed, De Ruth has also been a welcome guest on radio and television shows.  But, it is painting that gives a purpose to Jan De Ruth's existence: "It is an unending challenge-there is no end, no final result-to be found in painting the human body.  I have never seen two gestures that are alike, but so are the possibilities of expression.  There will always be painters who will find one more way of saying: "See! This is what I feel about humans." . . . So until a greater challenge and a more profound symbol comes along, it is the human figure I wish to paint."


Butler Institute of American Art Purchase Prize
Oguniquit Art Center
Knickerbocker Artist 1964
Audubon Artist, Grumbacher Purchase Prize
National Arts Club of America Gold Medal
Windsor-Newton Award of the National Arts Club


B'nai B'rith Museum - Washington D.C.
Florida Gulf Coast Art Center - Clearwater, Fla.
Mint Museum of Art - Charlotte, N.C.
Neville Public Museum - Green bay, Wisconson
Lauren Rogers Museum - Laurel, Miss.
Theodore Wright Art Center - Beloit, Wis.
Bowling Green State College - Bowling Green Ohio
Catawba College - Salisbury, N.C.
East Central State College - Ada, Oklahoma
Fairleigh Dickinson University - New Jersey
Rochester Public Library - Rochester, N.Y.


Allied Artists of America
American Artists Professional League
Audubon Artists
Berkshire Art Association, Berkshre Museum
Boston Society of Independent Artists
Connecticut Academy
Knickerbocker Artists
National Academy of Design
National Arts Club
New York City Center
New York State Exposition
Ogunquit Art Center
Painters and Sculptors Society of New Jersey
Princeton Art Association
Springfield Museum Eastern States Exposition

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