Louis Ritman was born in Kamenets-Podolsky in Russia and emigrated to Chicago at the age of 14. In 1910, having turned 21 and with modest savings, left home to undertake art training in Paris, something which American artists at the time felt was crucial to their professional success.
Ritman enrolled at the l’Académie Julian and was later accepted by l’Ecole nationale superiéure des Beaux Arts. Besides his training amongst the Parisian bohemian community, probably most important for his career was his meeting with Impressionist Frederick Frieseke at a Parisian café. Frieseke invited Ritman to Giverny, and Ritman made his first trip there in the summer of 1911.
The small French town was already full of American artists who flocked there to paint the willow trees along the Epte River, the quaint thatched cottages, and the many country gardens.The atmosphere in Giverny was more informal than that of Paris, a scenario that led artists to feel more comfortable to experiment with various styles of painting, including Impressionism. As a result Ritman’s Academic style began to loosen after many hours spent painting en plein air and within his own picturesque, walled garden.
Besides the obvious sway that the work of Impressionist flag-bearer Claude Monet had on Ritman’s practice, Ritman was clearly influenced by the Intimism of the American painters in Giverny. It is his paintings of attractive young women in confined landscapes and decorative interiors, illuminated with natural light, which Ritman became primarily known for. Regarding a show of Ritman’s in New York in 1919, one admirer titled Ritman “the Vermeer of the Impressionist School.”
Throughout his oeuvre one finds accomplished draftsmanship, and after World War I, his high-keyed palette became deeper in tone. His predilection to draw with the brush and to capture form in natural light remained constant throughout his career.
After twenty-one years of prestigious activity as a Paris-based painter, Ritman was persuaded by Robert Harshe of the Art Institute of Chicago to accept the position of professor of painting. In 1960 he relocated to Minnesota, where he died in 1963.