Rosalie Ritz (1923- 2008)
A well-known courtroom artist, Rosalie Ritz is noted for having recorded many high profile trials, including those of O.J. Simpson, Patty Hearst, and Charles Manson.
Born in Wisconsin, her maiden name was Rosalie Jane Mislove. She was the seventh of ten children. Her artistic talent was evident at an early age, and at fourteen she began studies at the Layton School of Art College. By the time she was sixteen, she was earning money creating portraits at fairs and circuses. She went on to further her studies at Marquette University, and the art institutes of Milwaukee and Chicago.
In 1946 Ritz married World War II navy veteran and athlete, Erwin Ritz. Together they had four children: Barbara Bray, Sandra Ritz, Terry Leach and Janet Ritz.
Ritz’s fine art education set her apart when she began sketching live events while living in Washington, D.C. with her husband. She worked with a group of artists in Georgetown. Several of her paintings won places in national juried shows at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian, and other galleries. During the 1950s she did contract work, covering some of the Senate and Congressional hearings, including the McCarthy Hearings, where cameras were barred, and some of her drawings appeared in the Washington Post. She attended a closed session of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, a committee (1938–75) of the U.S. House of Representatives that had been created to investigate disloyalty and subversive organizations. A producer for CBS television offered to purchase her sketches, which were then shown on their show hosted by Edward R. Murrow. That exposure led to her services being in great demand.
She and her family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, and she did work for the station KQED. Her work from Washington had attracted the attention of KPIX, a San Francisco affiliate of CBS, and she began doing freelance sketch work. The Associated Press sent her to Los Angeles in 1968 for the trial of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. She also covered the trials of some of the Black Panthers and Hell’s Angels. When covering such high-profile cases, she would produce as many as 21 drawings a day. At times, she sketched outside courtrooms, including jail cell images of Huey Newton as he awaited trial for murder. At times her assignments were frightening. “I was scared a lot of the time”, she is quoted as having said. (Linda Deutsch, AP article). Outside a courthouse, she was once pepper-sprayed during an anti-Vietnam war protest.
Her work was not photographic, but rather sought to present the drama of trial action. Her early work was in black and white, but after the arrival of color television, she began to use more color.
In 1972 Ritz was awarded the Associated Press’ award for excellence. She continued working into the 1980s, and came out of retirement in the 1990s to cover the O.J. Simpson trial.
The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, holds a collection of her trial illustrations.
Rosalie Ritz died at her Walnut Creek, California, home, at age 84, shortly after the death of her husband of sixty-one years.
Credit for the above information is given to: Marin Independent Journal article: ‘Famed Courtroom Artist Dies at 84’; by Linda Deutsch of the Associated Press; and to Wikipedia.org.