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Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Unique, Ageless, Creative and Very Private Artist Comes To Light

Janet Ruttenberg paints in Central Park
Tonight's post delves into a truly unique and timeless artist with scads of stamina whose very life provides a lesson for writers, publishers and ALL creative people --- can you discern what it is?

Just imagine an 82 year old woman leaning over a 15' by 15' canvas, spread out on the grass in New York's Central Park, wielding a 40" long brush as she 'dabbles some yellow paint and describes the curious pull of the vast lawn, with its tableaux of couples, families and single New Yorkers, all set beneath the elegant skyline of Central Park South.'

"Central Park is really like a cathedral," she says --- 'She' in this instance is Janet K. Ruttenberg, the 82 year old, very rich widow of former industrialist and philanthropist, Derald H. Ruttenberg.

Just imagine, if you will, an elderly lady wearing a battered straw hat, pushing a shopping cart with art supplies into Central Park. A bag lady? One worth millions plus, yes. This is just so deliciously dripping with real life drama, but, with a very unique twist --- Janet K. Rittenberg has never intended her work for public view. She painted only for her self- enjoyment and private viewing of close friends AND as she, herself, said "I'm interested in working. It's like cracking a code."    

"Sarah M. Henry, the chief curator and deputy director of the Museum of the City of New York, called Mrs. Ruttenberg’s work 'a major discovery.' "
“To see someone who has worked in a career that long, who has made work on such a large scale, who is so accomplished and unique and who has never done it for public view — that’s just very unusual,” she said.
This wonderful real life story holds many life lessons and I just could not NOT post about this marvelous 82 year old dynamo --- a newly discovered, very accomplished artist--- Oh, the irony of it all :)

From The New York Times by Lisa W. Foderaro:

A Private Artist Goes Public

The Painter Janet Ruttenberg Likens the Sheep Meadow to a Cathedral

Janet K. Ruttenberg hovered over a 15-foot-long piece of paper that was spread across the grass in Central Park. It was an unusually balmy October afternoon and she was painting one of her favorite subjects: the Sheep Meadow. Wielding a 40-inch-long brush, she dabbed some yellow paint and described the curious pull of the vast lawn, with its tableaux of couples, families and single New Yorkers, all set beneath the elegant skyline of Central Park South.

“It’s really like a cathedral,” said Mrs. Ruttenberg, who has spent the past 15 years documenting Central Park in watercolor and oil paints. “People come and take pictures of the frieze of buildings, just like they would if they were in a great cathedral.”
At 82, Mrs. Ruttenberg is the grande dame of park portraiture in New York City, though until recently no one would have known it. She has refused to sell a single painting and has never exhibited her work until now — 17 of her paintings are on view at the Museum of the City of New York in a show called “Picturing Central Park,” which runs through Jan. 5.
Janet K. Ruttenberg with a Lance of an artists brush
“I’m just not interested,” she explained of her decision to ignore the art market and paint only for herself. “I’m interested in working. It’s like cracking a code.” After a lengthy disquisition on the tricky composition of a group of nearby picnickers, the interrelationship of individual leaves and the elusive skin tones of a bare-chested man, she asked: “Who the hell can think of selling and galleries when there’s all this drama going on?”
And the truth is, she never had to: Mrs. Ruttenberg belongs to a class more likely to underwrite museum shows than to appear in them.
She lives in a grand duplex apartment on one of Manhattan’s most rarefied blocks — Beekman Place. It is where she raised four children with her husband, Derald H. Ruttenberg, a prominent industrialist and philanthropist who died in 2004 at age 88. She now shares the apartment with her maids and original works by Picasso, Matisse, Goya, Ingres and others, as well as clay sculptures by her daughter Kathy Ruttenberg, a successful sculptor and painter.
The crowd at her museum opening included Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as Oscar and Annette de la Renta — old friends of the Ruttenbergs from when the two couples had neighboring houses in the Dominican Republic. Mr. de la Renta even lent his voice to the exhibition, recording a song for one of Mrs. Ruttenberg’s most striking works, an oil painting of tango dancers on which video of actual Central Park dancers is projected.

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