Louis Ritman was born in Russia in 1889, but grew up in Chicago. To help support his family, he worked as an apprentice for a sign company. His foreman recognized his artistic ability and encouraged him to study painting.
Ritman’s first formal art lessons were in evening classes at Jane Addam’s Hull House under Enella Benedict, who studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. Other training included the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine where he studied under William Merritt Chase.
By 1909, Louis Ritman moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. His talent was soon discovered and he was accepted to study under the master, Adolphe Dechenaud, who was a two-time winner of the Prix de Rome, a highly respected award given to academic painters in France. By 1911, Louis Ritman had a painting accepted into the Paris Salon which was a huge accomplishment for an American painter.
In Paris, at the famous Cafe du Monde, Ritman joined other regulars Frederick Frieseke, Richard Miller and Lawton Parker, immersed in an area that inspired so many American artists. It was with their invitation that Ritman went to Giverny. He would return to Giverny to paint every summer for five years. Ritman’s Giverny paintings employ the French Impressionist style and palette with an American interpretation of color found in nature. Frieseke played an important role in Ritman’s life as a friend and fellow artist. It was Frieseke that introduced Ritman to the Macbeth Gallery in New York. In 1913, Louis Ritman’s work was accepted again to the Paris Salon.
During the years of World War I, Ritman returned to Chicago where he had a one-man show at the Art Institute of Chicago. The show was a huge success. In 1915, he won a silver medal in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco for Early Morning in a Garden and Breakfast.
Throughout the years of 1909 to 1929, Ritman travelled between France and America. In 1930, after twenty years of painting, Louis Ritman was invited to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago and he remained there for thirty years. He retired and moved to Winona, Minnesota where he died in 1963.
Although he executed several landscape and still-life paintings, he is best known for his figurative work and for his intimate scenes with partial nudes. Early in his career, Ritman mastered the impressionist technique and its basic principles, perfected by continuous experimentation. Louis Ritman paintings can be found at museums across the world including Butler Institute of American Art, The Dayton Art Museum, University of Kentucky Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Frederich Weisman Art Museum.