Louis Ritman

Louis Ritman, an important American Impressionist, was born in Kamenets-Podolski, Russia, one of six sons born to a fabric-designing father.  In 1903 or 1904, the family immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago, where Ritman would eventually spend the last thirty-three years of his productive career.

After an early apprenticeship with a sign painting company, the artist enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied under Wellington Reynolds and John H. Vanderpoel.  Both instructors had trained at the Académie Julian in Paris and taught Ritman the tradition of European academic painting.

By 1909, after a few months of instruction under William Merritt Chase in New York, the artist was in Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  He was almost immediately accepted at the Paris Salon and given recognition by the Parisian author and critic, Thiebault-Sisson.  The subject of women shown in interior settings in these early paintings became a lasting statement for the artist.

Around 1911, Ritman became and adherent of French Impressionism and rented a house in Giverny to be near Claude Monet and the Americans, Frederick Frieseke and Theodore Butler.  While in Giverny, Ritman sent the canvases to the major annual exhibitions in America.  He was given a one man show at the Art Institute of Chicago upon his brief return in 1915, the same year he won the prestigious Silver Medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Ritman returned to Paris in 1916, maintaining studios in both Paris and GIverny.  He began to add landscape subjects to his oeuvre and his style became increasingly fluid and broad in treatment as the French period progressed.

After nearly twenty years of unceasing productivity in Paris and Giverny, 1929 marked the end of Ritman’s French sojourn, although he would make many return visits during the remainder of his career.  He became an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930 and continued in that capacity for thirty years, during which time he received an impressive list of awards fro the school: the Frank Prize (1932), the Brewer Prize (1939), the Martin B. Kahn Prize (1941), to name a few.

A reviewer for the Chicago Art Institute Newsletter in 1923 dubbed Ritman a “painter’s painter, a master of the nuances of texture, an exquisite weaver of patters, a man to whom pigment seems a natural medium.  His skill is unostentatious.  There is no striving after difficult passages.  They are tender and charming in sentiment and sensitive in execution.”