Louis Ritman (1889-1963)
Property from the estate of Warren and Judy Field
Louis Ritman (1889-1963)

In the Garden

Louis Ritman (1889-1963)
In the Garden
oil on canvas
36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm.)
The artist.
Hugo Rosenfield, gift from the above, circa 1930s.
By descent to the present owner.

Lot Essay

Executed at the height of his career, In the Garden is one of Louis Ritman's most beautiful works. In the painting, the artist displays his fascination with color, pattern, light and brushwork. Depicted with dazzling color and vitality, In the Garden is a masterwork of Ritman's oeuvre.

By early in the second decade of the twentieth century, Louis Ritman had joined American artists including Frederick Frieseke and Richard Miller in the painter's haven of Giverny in the French countryside. He was drawn by the colony's physical and cultural landscape, just as French Impressionists Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir had been. In 1916, France became his permanent home and he split his time between Paris, where he owned and operated a studio during the winter months, and Giverny, where he lived and worked from spring to fall.

Frieseke became Ritman's mentor and close friend and the artist had continuous access to Frieseke's celebrated garden, studio and house. Frieseke lived in Theodore Robinson's former house, next door to Monet. Frieseke's house had a "beautiful old garden, running riot with flowers, vines and trees." (W.H. Gerdts, Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, New York, 1993, p. 172) Ritman's work in Giverny often incorporated Frieseke's garden. Critics in the United States recognized the artist's connection to Frieseke, "[Ritman] paints in the same style and coloring as F.C. Frieseke, with whom he has worked in Frieseke's delightful old garden...Ritman's aim, like that of his teacher, is to depict foliage in brilliant sunlight. Figures, flowers and garden furniture take their place as spots of color." (Indianapolis News, April 24, 1915, p. 209 as quoted in Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 196) With a thick application of pigment, Ritman's garden paintings reflect the simple, everyday life and tranquil delight of sunshine and flowers, similar to Frieseke's finest works.

In the Garden is an example of Ritman's balanced and symmetrical compositions, emphasized by the horizontal layers of color. The flowers throughout the garden as well as on the woman's dress provide an opportunity for the artist to add pattern to the composition. Dr. William H. Gerdts has noted that it was Ritman's mentor "who introduced into the repertory of Giverny painting the concern for rich, decorative patterns, related to the art of Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, and the other Nabi painters. There are patterns of furniture, patterns of parasols, patterns of fabric and wall coverings, patterns of light and shade, and patterns of flowers, all played off one another in bright sunshine...." (Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 172) In In the Garden as in other works from this period, the artist's use of sunlight, the direction and texture of his brushstrokes and contrasts of light and shadow create a patterned harmony reminiscent of the Post-Impressionists.

Ritman's subdued portrayal of a solitary moment underscores his affection for "the depiction of an attractive young female in an intimate setting," (R.H. Love, Louis Ritman: From Chicago to Giverny, p. 154) pioneered by Dutch artists like Vermeer and adopted by American Impressionists, among others. The American version, Ritman's version of intimism, "was...quiet, reserved, and above all, discreet, never outside the parameters of the genteel tradition." (Louis Ritman: From Chicago to Giverny, p. 155) The woman's downward gaze and placid posture relate directly to the introspection and restfulness of an intimate moment, away from the increasingly bustling modern world of Paris and the devastating World War.

Ritman's high-keyed palette and the thick impasto of his short brushstrokes are masterfully executed in this work. Through deft handling of steady yet broken brushstrokes, In the Garden becomes a brilliant visual display of color and light. This sophisticated handling of paint combined with a jewel-like palette emphasizes Frieseke's effect of a sun-filled day. In In the Garden Frieseke blends rich greens and blues with vibrant yellow, orange and pink and the soft pastel of lavender. Bathing the work with intense sunlight, Frieseke does not diffuse the scene but imbues the lush garden with form and texture.

All of Ritman's artistic devices come together in this work to form a highly successful, complete, composed and balanced composition. In the Garden is a superlative example of Ritman's garden paintings and conveys the full vision of the artist's lively Impressionist style. The vitality of the garden and the quiet moment of the model is poignantly recorded as he successfully creates an idyllic image that embraces the scene in its most beautiful and picturesque form.

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley.

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