RUYTERS A Painter's Life - My Mother

S. RUYTERS, Belgian Portraitist, born 20 October 1913. My mother. When I first wrote this page, she had recently celebrated her 100th birthday, see my blog post about her here. She passed away serenely in her 101st year, on 12 March 2015.

A Quick Bio:

Born in 1913 from a French mother and a Belgian father of Dutch origin, Simone Ruyters lives the first years of her life in Brussels, learning to draw at the Institut Michot and paint in the Atelier Duval with such masters as Arthur Navez, Albert Crommelinck and Paul Delvaux.

She starts to sell her work very early in Brussels, and as soon as 1934 the Galerie Dietrich has her paintings on permanent show. Her first one-man show takes place in the Galerie Le Régent in the middle of the war, just before the birth of her daughter, in September 1943. She sells everything, including large pastel nudes like this is one:

She is on her way to becoming a major artist in Belgium when her career is stopped short by a series of travels abroad as she follows her husband, André Forthomme, a Belgian diplomat. They live in Sweden, Egypt, Russia and Colombia before hitting New York - many countries with totally different cultures that inspire her and enable her to mature her art. For example, in Egypt, she is inspired by the way the Ancient Egyptians depict animals, particularly ducks:

Detail on a tapestry done 15 years later
And she does some portraits of socialites, such as that of Princess Nadia, a niece of King Farouk. But simple folk in the streets also inspire her, like this Egyptian rural woman:

In Colombia, the baroque art inherited from Spain is a further source of inspiration and she engages in very large religious canvases. One of them goes over the altar of the St. Sophia Church in Bogotà of the Fathers Assomptionists and here is another, a triptych of the Annunciation (very large, over 12 feet long):

Eventually, when she arrives in New York in 1960, her career resumes. She has a successful first one-man show at the Sagittarius Gallery on Madison Avenue in 1962 and others at the Schoneman Gallery and the Marble Arch Gallery. Following this, she is acclaimed by the critics as a top portraitist and over the next ten years, she does numerous portraits of socialites and celebrities, including that of Barbara Thompson Eisenhower, the former President's daughter-in-law, Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia, Mrs. Annenberg Jaffe, Mrs. Zauderer, the Duke Pini di San Miniato, Mr. John Lesley, Ms. Fran Koltun, Mrs. Pierre Artigue, Mrs. V. Lippe, Mrs Philippe Lecomte de Nouy etc. Not to mention those of her own family members. 

Back in Belgium, she will continue with portraits through the 1970s, including that of Mrs. d'Avignon, Mrs. Vlerick and Mrs. Van Zeeland. When she does Mrs. Talvitie, wife of the Finnish Ambassador, the portrait is shown in the press:

Here is her portrait of Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia that features all the characteristics of her approach to portraiture, linking the background to the subject's mood and character:

And here's another one of her own daughter Claude, exhibiting the same features, with Claude's glasses done in epoxy glue mixed with pigments and "hung" in the background, a facetious hint at Claude's fascination with study and the world of ideas:

The 1960s is a particularly prolific decade for Simone Ruyters and she experiments with various techniques, including painting on gold leaves applied following the classic method (over a red pigment, specially prepared). This is a difficult technique that allows for no correction in case of mistake but has the advantage of providing exceptional opportunities to play with transparencies. Here is an example (note the monkey's fur):

This is also a period in which she explores Surrealism, producing dozens of bizarre paintings, often with humorous touches, like this one:

She branched out in making designs ("cartons de tapisserie") for  the tapestry workshops of the French manufacture of Aubusson and the Belgian tapestries of Chaudoir. Her designs met with success and one was picked by King Baudouin as an official gift  in 1973 for his trip to the then Soviet Union (as shown in my blog post). Here is another one, totally different, "Indian Summer":

She also went into interior decoration and designed furniture decorated with gold leaves that was commercialized by French Co in the United States. Here is an example, a painted table top:

After her husband passed away (in 1995), her art helped her handle the pain this loss caused her, after 56 years of married life. With the determination that characterizes her, she threw herself in work and again produced a vast array of diverse paintings, for example, this surrealistic fantasy of war, a very symbolic depiction of innocence thrown to the water:

Or this more spiritual painting that recalls the religious work she did in Colombia:

Her own favorite paintings? No doubt she enjoyed herself most when engaged in fantasy work and then (surprise)...she likes my work probably because she felt I was her best pupil (and I'm her daughter, anyone reading this blog knows how much I believe in genetic inheritance...). I made several portraits of her but my own favorite is this one, it shows her the way I remember her in New York, in the 1960s when she was at the top of her form:

Yes, I think that in the technique and kind of drawing I do,  you can see how much I owe her...

You can see more of S.Ruyters work on Picasa:  click here
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