Nudes and ShowgirlsJulian once said "Eroticism is a natural thing for an artist to do because an artist is not inhibited. Rembrandt, Raphael, they all did erotic work." And so, Ritter, like the masters, painted these erotic works with the greatest dignity and respect for the subject.
Julian was always fascinated with the female form. He would study every nuance during life-studies classes at Art Center, and he had a great appreciation for figurative painting, be it clothed or nude. But, Julian did love to present the nude female form and did so masterfully. Art historian, Phyllis Settacase Barton remarked years later, "… for most of his life he has painted women as though he were exploring a garden - with eyes, lips and nipples painted like blue, red and pink blossoms."
Some of Julian's earliest nudes after Art Center were of his wife, the actress Francesca Chesley. He then started painting some of her friends, a few of them nude or semi-nude. When their marriage failed and Julian went to San Francisco to paint murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition, he received a commission through the Kotzbeck Gallery to paint nudes on the ceiling of rooms at a brothel. The paintings were so good that the madam ordered them painted over: "Son, I'm running a business here and my girls must jump from customer to customer," she explained sternly. "I don't want my customers dawdling around looking at pictures. Paint 'em out and give me some hollyhocks!"
When he returned to Los Angeles, Julian continued painting portraits and nudes including "Pinky" which was his best salon nude to date. Julian's successful shows at the Gallery of Modern Art and the Newhouse Galleries in New York City in 1941 included several nudes which were well-received and well-reviewed.
After World War II, Ritter began his most prolific period. Julian would regularly work long hours and he became known for the high quality and fine craftsmanship of his nude studies and clowns. In 1950, Julian sold thirteen paintings of clowns and nudes to Bill Moore, the owner of the Hotel Last Frontier in Las Vegas. This became the basis for a collection of 33 paintings later known as the Silver Slipper collection.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Julian continued to paint nudes. Some were commissions while others were simply the paintings he chose to make. Some of these works found their way into the expanding Silver Slipper Collection while others were snatched up by other Las Vegas hotels and avid collectors throughout the Southwest.
Julian also painted a couple of nudes of his second wife, Hilde - beautiful paintings that remain in the family collection. In 1965, he did a series of nine nudes with a model named Susie who he painted frequently from 1963 through 1966. These beautiful nudes were painted even as Hilde was losing her battle with cancer.
Ritter's most famous nude was "American Venus". This was not so much a painting as it was a pose - a horizontal frame of a reclined nude woman. Ritter painted several variations of this pose and many other reclining nudes.
Other famous nudes or semi-nudes include paintings of Janet Boyd, a successful Las Vegas showgirl, who he also painted as a showgirl in his famed painting "The Gibson Girl." There were many other nudes using various models. Julian had the gift of never making a woman look "cheap" in in a nude painting. All of these paintings were very successful commercially.
Janet Boyd later wrote to Julian:
"…I only got to be with you a few years but wonderful memories I have and will cherish. Not every girl gets to be a Ritter model. I loved every moment posing for you. The early mornings working in the studio in Santa Barbara are happy memories for me. And because your works of me will keep me young and beautiful forever."
Julian also painted many showgirl paintings, the most famous of which is "Ruby," a painting of a African-American girl. He made several showgirl paintings using a model named LeeAnn which were also commercially successful.
Please visit the galleries to see our collection of Julian Ritter nudes and showgirls: