Ruth Ann Fredenthal

1938 · United States

Artist biography

Ruth Ann Fredenthal was born in Detroit (Michigan) in 1938 to artist parents; watercolor painter, David Fredenthal, and hand weaver, Miriam Kellogg, who met as students at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art. As a tiny child she knew she was a painter by the age of 3.

Classical music moved her deeply as her parents played records of Bach, Prokofiev, Debussy, Brahms etc. for her at bedtime when she was a baby, and her mother played the piano. Living in the countryside of New England, she spent her days playing out in nature, and Fredenthal did multitudes of drawings and paintings of animals and nature which she combined with the intensity of her feeling for classical music.

A little later, her mother gave her and her brother Robin, two books of reproductions of master paintings mostly from the Renaissance. Thrilled by the structures and imagination of these images, she then added classical structures to her childhood art works. The images of paintings by Titian, Raphael, Memling, Poussin etc, in these two books, along with the classical music and experiences with nature and animals, became the most profound influences in Fredenthal's childhood art that continues until the present time.

After her boarding school graduation, she went to Bennington College where she studied mostly with Paul Feeley and Tony Smith. Bennington attracted many advanced artists and critics like David Smith and Lawrence Alloway that Fredenthal became friends with. While at Bennington, she also won the Yale Norfolk Summer School of Art grant. She became especially close to Paul Feeley whose use of curved shapes was similar to her own. He then became the greatest living artistic influence on her painting.

From Bennington, she won a Fulbright fellowship in Painting to Florence, Italy, and spent a year there. In Italy, she was finally able to see the real paintings, mostly from the Italian Renaissance, whose reproductions had influenced her art so deeply as a child.

Since the very beginning of her career, she preferred the classic style rather than contemporary art, and she also favors the more traditional master oil painting technique on linen. The investigation of the micro tonalities of pure color, and their subtle relationships within a highly complex color field, has always represented a central point of her practice. Her technique and research process is meticulous but at the same time deeply felt: from the size of the canvas, a square; to the material, a special unbleached Belgian linen used worldwide by conservators in museums to reline master paintings; and the way she paints the colors with small fine bristle brushes.

The final outcome is astonishing. The painted surface, produced by several opaque layers of heavily mixed colors seems to disappear, opening up an endless undefined space for reflection and interpretation, as was also pointed out by Giuseppe Panza, a great admirer of Fredenthal's paintings, in Ricordi di un collezionista.

Today, Ruth Ann Fredenthal lives and works in New York. Her artworks are exhibited in many relevant public collections: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Museo di Villa Panza, Varese, Museo Cantonale, Lugano, and others.

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