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 Louis Ritman  (1889 - 1963)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Minnesota / France/Russian Federation      Known for: figure-landscape, still life and genre painting

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Ad Code: 1
Louis Ritman
from Auction House Records.
An Improvised Flower Basket
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known primarily for his sunny, Impressionist landscape paintings, often with figures, Louis Ritman earned much of his reputation for the work he produced during the time he was in Giverny, France, home of Claude Monet, a key Impressionist.

Born in Kamenets-Podolsky, Russia, he emigrated with his family to Chicago in 1903, and first travelled from his home in Chicago to Paris in 1910 when he could afford the art training there that so many American artists felt was crucial to professional achievement.

He enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Academie Julian, but the turning point in his career was meeting Impressionist Frederick Frieseke at a cafe in Paris. Frieseke invited him to Giverny, where he first went in 1911, and from that time his style changed from Academic to Impressionist.

The small town with beautiful gardens and landscape vistas and quaint rural scenes was full of American artists including Frieseke and Richard Miller, with whom he painted. The atmosphere was one of encouraging artists to experiment with various styles of painting, and Ritman returned each year until 1929.

His style is both Impressionist and "Intimist," genteel and reserved in tone, with single figures, especially attractive young women, in confined landscapes and interiors. He painted "en plein aire" but often within his own walled garden.

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:
By the end of his accomplished life in 1963, Louis Ritman had secured a comfortable spot amongst the most acclaimed American Impressionists painters.  Ritman was famous for his bright, sunny landscapes and genre scenes of gentile feminine figures. Had it not been for one fateful night at a café in Paris, however, Ritman's career could have been significantly different.

Born in Kaments-Podolsky, Russia in 1889, the Ritman family relocated to the U.S. in the early 1900's.  Like many immigrant families, they ended up settling in Chicago, Illinois.  It was in there as well as Philadelphia that Ritman received his earliest artistic training.  By 1909, however, the romantic pull of Paris grabbed hold of Louis Ritman, and he joined countless other American ex-patriots who had traveled to France, including Richard E. Miller, Mary Cassatt and James Abbot McNeil Whistler.

Louis studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and also at the Academie Julian where he became well versed in the academic methods of the time.

Louis Ritman's artistic career took a turn one evening in 1911, when he made the acquaintance of fellow American painter Frederic Freiseke who invited Louis to paint with him at an artist's colony in Giverny.  He accepted and was immediately inspired by the creative atmosphere present there.  The artist's at Giverny were the pioneers of Impressionism as we know it today, and the atmosphere of experimentation that this small French village provided was essential to their success. It was in this environment that Louis Ritman stopped working as a student of the French Academic School and began working as an Impressionist avant-garde artist.

Ritman continued to visit Giverny each summer until 1930.  After that time, he took a full time position as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It is clear that the time he spent painting in Giverny made a substantial impact on his career as a fine artist.  Paintings from this period are highly prized and collected.

Apple Trees was completed on location in Giverny and is a stunning example of the style, composition and palette typically used by the artist's of this colony.  The Impressionist's who worked there favored soft pastels, light-filled brushstrokes and quaint landscapes that captured the serenity of the quaint hamlet of Giverny.

The blossoming branches of the apple tree orchard that grew outside the artists house in Giverny are also captured by fellow resident Theodore Robinson, in his painting Blossoms at Giverny.  The importance of the gardens at Giverny in the minds of the artist's who painted them is certainly reinforced by the frequency with which they were painted by master Impressionist, Claude Monet.

It is clear that without the creative risks taken at Giverny the paths of many artists, including Louis Ritman, may have been very different.  Impressionism provided the building blocks for the divergent thinking that opened a path from realism to the pivotal modern art movements of the future.  Therefore, Apple Blossoms should not just be seen as a tranquil and beautiful landscape, but also as a part of a movement that had far reaching effects on the course of art history that followed.

Biography from Owen Gallery:
Born in Kamenets-Podolsky, Russia in 1889, Louis Ritman became a leading American impressionist painter in the early 20th century. He and his family emigrated to America around the turn of the century, settling in Chicago. After studying in Chicago and briefly in Philadelphia, Ritman set sail for Paris in 1909 in order to enroll at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

In 1911, Ritman visited Giverny for the first time, where he first met Frederick Frieseke and Richard E. Miller to whose work Ritman's paintings are often compared. He spent much of the next two decades in the artist colony executing the pictures for which he is now revered--mainly women in and outdoors rendered in thick, divisionist daubs of bright paint.

Eventually Ritman was persuaded to accept a teaching position at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930. He resided in the city for the remaining thirty years of his career. He died in Winona, Minnesota.

Biography from R.H. Love Galleries:
Louis Ritman, one of six sons born in Kamenets-Podolski, Russia, moved with his family to Chicago sometime in late 1903 or early 1904. After a brief period with Wellington J. Reynolds at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Ritman continued his studies under John H. Vanderpoel, the mainstay of the Chicago art community, at the Art Institute of Chicago. He studied briefly under William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts then he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian in Paris (1909). One of Ritman's early works, La toilette (location unknown) was accepted by the Salon jury in 1911.

That spring or summer, he came under the influence of Claude Monet and American impressionist painter-friends in Giverny; he was lured by the intimism that was practiced by Karl Albert Buehr, Richard E. Miller, Lawton Parker, Frederick Frieseke, Guy Rose, and Alson Skinner Clark, the genre that featured artfully posed female models in intimate, decorative interiors, usually illuminated by natural light. Ritman would return to Giverny for five summer seasons (1912-16). His earliest works show a conservative assimilation of impressionism but soon Ritman accomplished "the technique of producing a typical Giverny-type flower garden in the manner of Frieseke or any other Monet disciple" (Richard H. Love, Louis Ritman from Chicago to Giverny, 1989, p. 163). The period between 1912 and 1918 should be regarded as Ritman's peak. He developed compositions with an abundance of patterns and a great degree of abstraction, for example in Pink and Blue (1913), there is a deliberate play on real flowers and patterned wallpaper flowers, in close juxtaposition. The rectangular patterns on the teapot have very little to do with naturalistic reflections. Although the apples and checkered tablecloth are reflected in Pink and Blue's teapot, the play of rectangles on its surface transforms it into an ambiguous object. Here, Ritman was experimenting in post-impressionism at a time when the artist had only recently plunged into impressionism.

Back in America during the war years, Louis Ritman was offered a one-man show at the Art Institute of Chicago. He exhibited his works in Parker's Chicago studio in 1914 and a year later, two of Ritman's paintings were on display at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco where he won a silver medal. One of Ritman's masterpieces, Lady by a Window, shows a continued application of the shingle stroke, a heavier use of the palette knife, and forms broken into rectangular sections — overall a return to Cézannesque formalism. His mature works demonstrate a masterful compromise between realism — rendering the effects of natural light — and abstractionism. Ritman won the Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy in 1921. Then, after twenty-one years of prestigious activity as a painter in Paris, Ritman was persuaded by Robert B. Harshe of the Art Institute of Chicago to accept the position of professor of painting in 1930. Thirty years later, Ritman moved with his wife Marguerita Steffenson Ritman, a professor of sociology, to Winona, Minnesota, where he died in 1963.

C. H. Waterman, "Louis Ritman," International Studio 67 (April 1919): LXXII-LXIV; Richard H. Love, The Paintings of Louis Ritman (1889-1963). Chicago: Signature Galleries, 1975; Richard H. Love, Louis Ritman: From Chicago to Giverny. Chicago: Haase-Mumm, 1989; William H. Gerdts, Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France 1865-1915. Chicago: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992, pp. 89-90, 198-199.

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Louis Ritman is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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