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Lifescapes - The mystical and spiritual paintings of Julian Ritter

Ritter was a man who lived in his emotions. His paintings have been described as a "visual record of his emotional life." Nowhere is this more true than in the paintings art historian Phyllis Settacase Barton called "lifescapes."

It could be argued that the first of these lifescapes were the clown compositions. The painting, "Clown Band" is no less a joyful presentation of life than Ritter's later work, "God's Children." "Clown Funeral" was a deeply introspective look with Julian, in self-portrait, carrying the body of a fallen clown - his announcement that he was no longer interested in painting the clowns that had brought him so much commercial success. The montages of clown with either nudes or showgirls shows the duality in all of us - the sensuality and eroticism of the female form with the detached folly of the accompanying clown(s).

But the true lifescapes were those works that Ritter painted when he had the patronage that allowed him to eschew dealing with galleries - Ritter finally started painting the great compositions which he saw in his visions. These works were described as "mystical looks into the core of existence and the meaning of life." Many of these were painted during and after the voyage that almost took his life but which also opened his mind and heart to see deeper and more introspective subjects and expressions. Paintings of the voyage revealed the absolute terror in the hollowed-out eyes of the subjects. The mystical paintings revealed a faith that higher powers were at work.

Many of the paintings were multi-figured compositions or, rather, compositions within compositions. The eye is drawn from one story within the painting to another which put together tell the journey of Julian as a man bedeviled with his own problems but ultimately gracious and accepting of his place in the world.

One critic wrote "Julian is a man who has seen life, absorbed it and now presents it." Sweeping and majestic paintings presented the very essence of Ritter's emotions. "The Carousel" was a complicated composition exploring man's spiritual nature. Ritter dealt with man's hypocrisy in "The Sunday Preacher". Ritter's "Man on the Cross" was a deeply personal view into Ritter's emotions as he painted his self-portrait onto the cross. One critic wrote of the piece:
Undoubtedly, it is a daring and modern interpretation of life. It is a work which will cause considerable controversy. But what great artist hasn't caused that? What artist of any note has not or will not speak his own mind through his pictures?

When Julian and Laurie separated in the summer of 1984, Ritter's work became more dark expressing the aloneness he felt in his partner's absence.

Ritter's work changed again when he moved to Maui, building again on the spiritual. Art historian, Phyllis Settacase Barton wrote of these paintings:
In the glowing panoramic scenes, powerfully and prayerfully, Julian Ritter lets us in on some of his most intimate secrets, eases us into his precious discoveries and shares with us deepest concerns.


Please visit the Lifescapes Gallery to see our collection of lifescape paintings - the mystical and spiritual paintings by Julian Ritter.