Ida "Adi" Ritter, Selbsporträt (Ausschnitt)

Ida (Adi) Ritter (1900–1975)

Artist of the "lost" generation

Ida Ritter, who sometimes signed her works with “Adi” Ritter (an anagram of her first name), is one of the artists of the "forgotten”"generation. We are taking care of her artistic estate. In this article you will learn more about her life and work.

Artistic Beginnings

Ida Ritter was the daughter of Max Meir Lauinger and his wife Minna, née Ehrmann. She grew up as one of three sisters in Nuremberg and studied at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für Freie und Angewandte Kunst in Berlin (United State Schools for Fine and Applied Art) with Karl Hofer, among others. In 1935 she married the actor and writer Fritz Ritter and began making a living as a graphic designer and illustrator.

As a Jewish artist, her professional opportunities in Germany were severely limited after 1933, and after emigrating first to the Bahamas and then to the USA, she only managed to establish herself as an artist to a limited degree.

Emigration to the Bahamas

Ida (Adi) Ritter, harbour, aquarell
Ida (Adi) Ritter, harbour, aquarell, Bahamas ca. 1939-1944. Jewish Museum Frankfurt, CC BY-SA 4.0

In the summer of 1939, Fritz and Ida Ritter emigrated to the Bahamas with the intention of continuing on to the US as quickly as possible. Their plans, however, were dashed by the outbreak of the war. At the time, the social structure of the Bahamas, where the former British King Edward VIII resided as governor, was still largely shaped by colonialism. Since the Ritters belonged neither to the predominantly wealthy European upper class nor to the overwhelmingly Black majority population, they found themselves stuck in the middle and in a precarious position. Fritz Ritter gave private lessons in Latin in Nassau, while Ida Ritter contributed to their income by teaching painting and performing odd jobs, such as creating murals for bars.

It wasn’t until 1944 that they were allowed entry to the US, where they remained through 1968 until retiring in Switzerland, where Adi Ritter died in 1975.

In the USA

Ida (Adi) Ritter, Demonstration, oil on canvas, Chicago 1960-1969
This painting refers to the civil rights movement in the United States and the race riots that erupted in major American cities throughout the 1960s. Ida (Adi) Ritter, Demonstration, oil on canvas, Chicago 1960-1969. Jewish Museum Frankfurt, CC BY-SA 4.0

In America, Ida Ritter developed an eclectic style that incorporated a broad spectrum of sensibilities. While her paintings in Germany were mainly influenced by Expressionism and French Modernism, elements of Cubism and Surrealism as well as contemporary abstract art emerged in American exile. As an artist, she was always, however, extremely keen to experiment and try out new techniques and ways of articulating images.

In her first few years in the US, she worked as an art teacher at various schools. After her husband found a secure job, she continued her practice as a fine artist, took part in several exhibitions, and traveled often to Mexico to paint. The motifs in Ida Ritter’s paintings are highly diverse: in addition to landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and images of animals, there are also numerous pictures that address philosophical and political themes.

From a letter by Fritz (Frederick) Ritter dated September 4, 1964.

"She’s an old lady now, but her zeal for painting is stronger than ever. She dreams of a new kind of painting that doesn’t yet exist, and she’ll take what she paints today and scrape it off tomorrow. (. . .) Well, maybe one day she really will make the painting she’s been dreaming of. I want it to happen very soon. . ."