Louis Ritman's Tea in the Garden is a splendid example of the artist's facility for capturing the ambiance of Giverny in the early years of the twentieth century. In style, subject matter and palette, the work ranks among the finest achievements of the American Impressionists known as the Giverny Group.
"Ritman's aim, like that of his teacher, [was] to depict foliage in brilliant sunlight. Figures, flowers, and garden furniture take their place as spots of color.'" (R.H. Love, Louis Ritman, From Chicago to Giverny, Chicago, Illinois, 1989, p. 196) In Tea in the Garden, with his characteristic depiction of dappled sunlight, Ritman has given the work an all-over patterned effect. He meticulously filled the composition with brilliant dabs of color, and heightened the effect of sunlight by incorporating dashes of white as well. The table, set in the foreground of the work features a magnificent still life group of plates, fruit in a bowl, a vase of flowers. The subject of the painting, adorned in a colorful patterned dress, basks in the warm sunlight and tranquil atmosphere.
From a technical point of view, "Ritman excelled in drawing with a brush, a technique he had practiced since his first years with Reynolds in Chicago. Using a wide variety of bristle brushes gully loaded with pigment from a high-keyed palette, Ritman did not juxtapose small strokes of contrasting hue to arrive at a typical broken-color style. Instead, he employed a combination of sweeping elongated strokes and smaller wedgelike dabs to create repetitious patterned areas. The result is a harmonious balance of blues, pinks, lavenders, and yellows - delicate colors that are sensitively combined in keeping with the general mood of his extremely intimate scene." (Louis Ritman, From Chicago to Giverny, p. 181)
An outstanding example of the sunny impressionist paintings of the Giverny Group, Louis Ritman's Tea in the Garden is a testament to the bold and important strides made by these artists in the mature years of American Impressionism.