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 Wilmer Siegfried Richter  (1891 - 1993)

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About: Wilmer Siegfried Richter


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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Florida      Known for: illustrator, landscape, lithographer

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Ad Code: 4
Wilmer Siegfried Richter
An example of work by Wilmer Siegfried Richter
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Artist's Statement

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 20, 1891. When I was ten years of age, my German father had a piano sent home, and I was told to learn how to play it! My love of drawing and copying pictures, which was rare in those days, was not taken into consideration.

My brother, two years older than I, was sawing away on a violin. I knew there was no way out, so I practiced, supposedly an hour after school. I learned so quickly that my mother let me off with only a half hour of practice. My mother and a ninth grade teacher were responsible for pushing me into studying art as a profession. Meanwhile, we learned to play music well enough for my brother, who went to a conservatory, to form a dance band with members of the family.

At 15 1/2 years of age I was sent to work as an office boy in a sugar refinery. Soon I was writing orders and doing the bookkeeping. At eighteen I went to work in a photo-engraving art department, and I also went to art school at night for several years. I was fired from this job in 1913 for being"fresh" to a shop foreman. I had been paid $12 a week, but since I had learned a lot about commercial art, I knew I was worth much more. Just a block away was another photo-engraving company. I knew the art director, as he was going to the art school at Broad and Pine streets also. I showed a sample of my work to him and asked for twenty dollars a week. He hired me for a weeks trial, then offered the job to me for eighteen dollars a week.

We did a great deal of work for the Victor Talking Machine Company (now RCA). All summer we painted opera scenes for the Book of the Opera. The German magazine had artists make drawings of opera scenes. From these we made the pictures of the different operas. At that time, photography had not advanced far enough to take photographs in a theater. After a year at this studio, I wanted to spend a year in illustration class at the Art School, so I quit and never regretted it.

Having saved enough money, I wanted to travel. I took a ship to Cuba where I was to transfer to another ship going through the Panama Canal and on to California. However, the second one left too early, and since I would have to wait three weeks for the next one, I went instead to New Orleans. From there, on the Santa Fe Railroad, I explored California, Colorado, and the states in between on my way back to Philadelphia.

World War I was in progress. I had several job offers, and took one for forty-six dollars a week. As the war dragged on, I was finally drafted on April 1st at age 27 into the infantry, sent to Fort Mead, Maryland, and, without any training shipped to France! I was gassed and wounded on July 15, 1918. I spent the rest of the year at the base hospital, drawing X-rays, playing the piano, and having a good time. No one ever asked me my name or what I was doing. I had a pocket full of passes which I wrote and signed, not only for myself, but for others who wanted to go into town. When the fighting ceased, I was on the first ship (a freighter) to return the wounded to the US.

I had painted a number of 5x8 war scenes. I also had a 5x8 notebook of a dozen or more pencil and color street scenes -cafes, etc. Still in uniform (my clothes were too small), I took these sketches in to the Saturday Evening Post. The editor took two of the pencil sketches into the director. When he came back he said, "We'll keep these. You will get a check in a few days." I looked anxiously for a letter from the "Post". When it came, it was for thirty dollars a page. I sat down and made larger and better drawings of two of the pages then took them to the Post. The next check was for forty dollars a sketch. These drawings were used in a serial article about a foreign correspondent.

An artist friend proposed starting a commercial art studio. No sooner had we opened than we were swamped with advertising work. Now we were making money! However this allowed only two days a week, and two weeks vacation a year in which to paint. After five years of this, with three children and the house paid off, I decided to quit and go to the Academy of Fine Arts summer landscape school. The only thing I learned was--one has to keep on working. This summer, however, also told me that I had to have time to paint, not only on weekends, but whenever I liked. Two years later I went to Europe alone for two months. I painted sixty or more watercolors. I sold the whole exhibit, except for the few I kept.

In the depression of 1929, everything dried up. Fortunately I had as pupils lawyers, a bank president and a millionaire. In World War II I helped out my old partner, who lost all his young men to the Armed Forces. At war's end, I made the final move to freedom. I moved to Sarasota, Florida, where I taught at the Ringling School of Art for three years. This I enjoyed.

In 1950 I went to Mexico for the third time, having sold most of the water colors I had made there, so that there were only a few left. More paintings were made during this trip.

As I write this, I am occupied making pencil drawings of certain, sometimes unknown spots, often missed by tourists because of lack of time, or not being aware of these interesting places. A lady doctor and I travelled 18,000 by small van, visiting all 48 states, plus EXPO '86 in Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, seeking out these places. This should keep me busy for several months.

Submitted by Dorrit Richter Riggles, daughter of the artist.----------------------------------------------------------------------
Wilmer Richter of Lakeland, artist, teacher, dies at 102

Lakeland-Artist and teacher Wilmer Richter - who was 102 years old when he died Tuesday (July 20, 1993) - vowed as a child that he would use all artistic mediums. And, in his 80-year career, he did it all...from publishing sketches in the Saturday Evening Post to drawing cartoons and teaching advertising art. Oils and watercolors were his favorites.

But it was his skill at drawing that is admired most by fellow artists at a Lakeland gallery.

"He had a good sense of humor and was a big practical joker," one of his three children, Carole Clark of Sarasota, said Wednesday. "I guess that's why he lived so long."

Born Jan. 20, 1981, in Philadelphia, Richter was the second-oldest of five children. He outlived all his siblings, Clark said. Richter grew up in Philadelphia and returned there after serving as an infantryman in World War I.

His early influences in art were his mother and his ninth grade teacher, Richter said in an interview with The Ledger in 1989.

Some of his early work was published in the Saturday Evening Post.

In 1947, thinking he would retire from his career as a commercial artist, Richter and his wife, Caroline moved to Sarasota.

He had planned to do nothing but paint in retirement, he said in the 1989 interview, but he began working as a screen printer and a cartoonist. He also began teaching drawing, advertising art, landscapes and still life at the Ringling Art School in Sarasota.

His talents earned Richter many honors , including being a judge with the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarasota. He has also been listed in "Who Was Who in American Art."

In 1986, he donated 104 of his works to Pennsylvania's Loch Haven University.

His wife died in 1977, after 57 years of marriage.

After living alone in Sarasota after his wife's death, Richter came to Lakeland in 1985, at the invitation of Dr Mary Holderman Creamer, a friend whose late husband had been Richter's dentist for nearly 50 years.

At age 95, Richter took a three-month trip around the country, continuing his life long appreciation for travel, Creamer said.

In Lakeland, Richter participated in the opening of the Imperial Artist's Co-Op in 1989 and remained active with the group until two years ago. The Coop is known as the Imperial Art Gallery.

Mary Conn. an artist and member of the gallery, said Richter did outstanding work. "He did marvelous drawings, which is almost a lost art today," Conn said Wednesday.

Richter is survived by two daughters, Clark and Dorrit Riggles of Sarasota; a son, WC Richter of Jersey Shore, Pa; eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Courtesy of the artist's daughter, Dorrit Richter Riggles
Source: "The Ledger", July 22, 1993

Wilmer Siegfried Richter was born in Philadelphia in 1891. He studied at the Museum School of Industrial Arts, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under W.H. Everett, Daniel Garber, Joseph T. Pearson, and George Obersteuffer. In 1920, Richter became a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and became the Life Class Chairman in 1927.

He was awarded the Life Class Medal in 1932, and was elected to the board of directors in 1935. He was also a member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Club. In 1947, Richter moved to Florida. He is noted for his graphite drawings of industrial sites both in the U.S. and abroad.

Newman Galleries
--------------------------------------------------------------------Note from James Creamer, son of Mary Creamer:

Richter spent the last years of his life living with Mary Creamer in her central Florida home. She is the widow of Anthony B. Creamer, who was a life-long friend of Richter, after meeting each other at the Philadelphia Sketch Club.

While still able to travel, Mary Creamer and Richter traveled around the United States, visiting historical sites. Richter died peacefully at 7:02pm on July 20, 1993 at Mary Creamer's house, with his daughter in attendance. He was 102 years old.

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