PortraitsJulian Ritter had an innate skill as a portrait artist. Even in the early days of his studies at Art Center under Stanley Reckless, who was himself a great portrait artist, Julian's talent stood out from the other students.
A classmate from Art Center recalls:
"I was a student at Art Center School at the same time as Julian was there. We were in a life-study class that Stanley Reckless taught. I remember one day a few months after the class began, Reckless complimented us on our progress.
'You're all moving along very well,' he said, 'but Julian is a racehorse.'
Julian's ability was so superior, he was in a class by himself."
After Art Center, Julian got a job at Warner Brothers Studios through his mother's connections with Anton Grot, a distinguished art director at the studio. After seeing his work, Grot offered Julian a job to do paintings for sets. After a year with Grot, Julian began to freelance at other studios too.
The studios often employed Ritter to do a quick knock-off of an Old World portrait to be used on set - a Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens or Van Gogh. These paintings furthered his education and improved his ability as a portrait artist.
He also painted many actors, especially while employed at Warner Brothers where he would paint an actor in his current role. For instance, he painted Paul Muni in his role as Zola in "The Life of Emile Zola." He also painted Ruby Keeler, Clara Bow, Claudette Colbert, Olivia de Havilland and Veronica Lake in various roles. These paintings and many others are likely hidden away in a dusty backlot warehouse.
In 1941, Julian had successful exhibits at two prominent New York City galleries - the Gallery of Modern Art and the Newhouse Galleries. Both exhibitions included a number of his portraits and nudes, and the shows were critically acclaimed. The Art News (March 15, 1941) wrote: "Especially in the portraits, his style shows fluency and ease."
Julian was drafted into the Army in 1943. While in the Army, Ritter was selected to paint a portrait of Lt. General Ben "Yoo-Hoo" Lear, the commanding officer of the US 2nd Army for which he received a commendation.
Julian continued painting portraits after the war - often painting for friends and his neighbors in the Deep Dell community in Hollywood. These portraits provided a livelihood while he searched out other commercial subject matter.
Once Julian became known in Las Vegas, some of the Las Vegas elite including Benny Binion, Moe Dalitz and Doby Doc commissioned portraits of themselves or their girlfriends.
Julian also painted portraits of his family - his wife Hilde and his children, Christine and Michael.
His most fateful portrait came in 1967 when he was hired to paint a young woman named Laureen Kokx by her mother. Laurie would soon become Julian's lover and partner for fifteen years.
Please visit the Portrait Gallery to see our collection of Julian Ritter portraits.