Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Howard Morseburg presents "Ballet Fantasy"

While doing research for my new book about Julian Ritter, I came across a series of letters from Howard Morseburg. Howard was one of the Dealers / Gallery Owners whom Julian worked with over the years. Howard was the only dealer that Julian ever trusted, and whom he considered a true friend.

When I was actively collecting I worked directly with Julian in Commissioning new works, and purchasing paintings he had around the studio. I was in fact, one of his Patrons after he quit "Gallery Shows." Julian always had dozens of paintings in the house and studio. He lived on Torito Rd, in Summerland  at the time I knew him.

The house in Summerland was on about two acres (I'm guessing here) of wooded land, with a beautiful little creek running through it and the studio was a separate building out back. One year after fires, then heavy rains, the creek overflowed. As Howard used to tell the story, Julian didn't trust banks, so he had buried probably thousands of dollars, in hundred dollar bills, in coffee cans throughout the property.

The results were hilarious and typical Julian. Oh Yes, you'll have to buy my book to find out what happened :)

Howard and I communicated often during the time I worked with Julian, and we kept in touch regularly after Julian passed away.  His last Gallery was in Solvang, in Central California. The last couple of years Howard was disabled and could barely get around.  But he loved to go to an old coffee shop in Solvang, what the kids today would call a Diner.  We'd go and spend hours talking  about Julian and I was lucky enough to have recorded some of our conversations.  On one occasion Julian's long time model and muse, Janet Boyd, went to Solvang with me to see Howard. Howard had a twinkle in his eyes that day, much like Julian used to have around beautiful women.

In the letters I found, Howard had sent to me photos of Julian's paintings he was trying to sell at the time. Two beautiful examples of Julian's work, one called  "Ballet Fantasy" and the other "Clown with Accordion."  Names for paintings were often made up on the spot. Also the names would sometimes change when they couldn't remember what they had called the painting before.

"Ballet Fantasy" by Julian Ritter
24 x 60 oil on masonite 

These are two superb examples of Julian's work. I suspect these are from the late forties or early fifties, although they could be earlier.  I will need to do more research to determine the years painted. The "Ballet Fantasy" painting is very rich and very complex, with layers of glazing which Julian had perfected by then and continued to use thought his career.  Also note how he used the dark cool tones of the masonite structure to create contrast and drama in the pieces. Lastly, Julians specialty was to use the negative space in a very active way, to construct shapes and to hide pertinent details within.

Ballet Fantasy detail

Ballet Fantasy detail

As did Julian, Howard Morseburg served proudly in the military, he wrote poetry, and he sold Art. He was an old time "Peddler". He used to go out on the road and make stops at regular customers to sell his artist's work.  Very similar to what Julian liked to do with his own art.  I'm sure they bonded with that connection.

Julian's last big art show was held in 1975, at Howard's gallery on Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles. The show was called, "JULIAN'S WORLD". After that, Julian declared he was no longer working with Galleries. He simply didn't trust them, although he continued to work with Howard.

"Clown with Accordian"

Julian did not handle events such as art gallery openings well. He would always drink too much and when he did, all decorum went out the window.  Howard told me that in a drunken state Julian was overheard telling a potential customer not to buy the painting at the show, to come see him at his studio.  I asked Howard directly, why he would continue to work with someone who basically, tried to cheat him.  Howard's response without forethought was simple, he said, " I Loved The Guy".

And it was that love, that joy, that spirit of life that Julian spread with his art, his life, and his personality. As for Howard, he was a true gentleman. A man from a time when honor, and honesty, and a man's word meant something. Howard passed away in December 2012 and is survived by his son Jeff Morseburg, who is also an art dealer in Los Angeles, California.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Magazine Las Vegas covers Julian Ritters works


The special Collections department of the Library at UNLV provided some interesting information. In an article from `Magazine Las Vegas', December 1954, there is an article about Julian Ritter and his paintings from the Loden Display Studio. At the time `Magazine Las Vegas' was to run a series called `The Girl of the Month' with photographs of Julian' paintings (pictured in black and white photographs by Mark Swain). `The paintings were on display at the Casino of The Last Frontier Hotel, where thousands of tourist and locals stand to gawk and stare.'

Reclining Nude 
Silver Slipper Entry

 Las Vegas Follies
Silver Slipper Entry

The mid-Fifties may indeed be considered one of Julian's most prolific periods. As noted in the Article  his work "including portraits of children, book illustrations, murals and paintings are on display in New York, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, and busy spots all over the world."

The magazine would go on to showcase  Julian's amazing art over the next year-and-a-half, with additional Articles and photographs of Julian and his models (noted Playboy model Neva Gilbert was painted by Julian and included in the last article of the series [October 1955]).

What is not mentioned in the Article is the story behind how Julian came to be represented by "Loden". What will be an interesting part of my upcoming book will revolve around how Julian came to paint as series of work which were sold to mobster Doby Doc, and subsequently for other high ranking mob family members including Moe Dalitz, and Benny Binion.

Also not mentioned in the Article is that the Casino of The Last Frontier Hotel, where the paintings were displayed, was the Silver Slipper Casino, which would in fact become The Silver Slipper Casino and Gambling Hall. The first, The Biggest, on the Strip.
                                                                                                                Portrait  of  a  Redhead
                                                                                                               Silver Slipper Collection

Julian began painting the Paintings, in the mid to late forties, and made his initial sale in early 1950 or thereabouts. Benny Binion then asked him to do a series of paintings, in a Gay-Ninties motif for a new casino he was planning (which would become the Silver Slipper).

   The Silver Slipper was built, then sold. The new owners liked the paintings so much they commissioned Julian over the course of years, to do another twenty or so paintings.  Lastly, the Silver Slipper was sold to Howard Hughes in the 1966 when Hughes began buying up valuable Las Vegas real estate. Contrary to common myths, Hughes bought the Silver Slipper property because he believed it to be a valuable piece of land in what would become a very desirable location on the strip.

Julian completed the last painting for the Silver Slipper in 1964.  That was not however, the end of his connection to the Casino. In 1968 one of the paintings would be stolen from the Casino, only to be recovered days later by two Detectives from Las Vegas' Sherif Lamb's office. And in a final twist of fate, Julian and his "Dealer" at the time, Bernie Schanz, would be called to Las Vegas to do an Appraisal of the Collection then hung at the Slipper.  Howard Hughes had to sue the previous group of owners to retain procession and ownership of the collection itself, which was called into question in long litigation over the purchase of the Silver Slipper property. Hughes won, and retained the paintings.

The history of the Silver Slipper Collection is rich and I hope to be able to show the collection, with additional work by Julian, from his estate and other collectors, to highlight a remarkable career of a master artist, and to highlight what has been heretofore lost in Las Vegas, a magnificent art history.

              Portrait of a Blonde
          Silver Slipper Collection

Below are a few additional  paintings from the Silver Slipper Collection.  All of the paintings can be seen at the Julian Website  

Blame it of the Apple
(private Collection of Greg Autry) 

Hobo Photographer
(from the Mr Whimsy series)
Silver Slipper Collection

Riding the Red Surrey
Silver Slipper Collection

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Two Entry Paintings at the Silver Slipper


 `Back-in-the-day', when the Silver Slipper was built, it was the most exciting place in LasVegas.

You entered into a relatively small entry, about the size of a large bedroom today.   You passed through the entry to go into the casino where the bars, and showrooms were.  As you passed through the entry, on each side wall, there was a large Julian Ritter painting. Bawdy, titillating, highly sexual and arousing.    It was everything the owners had wanted. Like walking into a Bordello.

A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. The walls were covered in ornate Victorian Wall coverings, and all around were floor to ceiling Brocaded Drapes.  Colors of deep wine reds and burgundies, purples and magentas, detailed with gold lame tie ropes.

On the right was reclining Nude, about 4 feet high, and about six feet long. A reclining nude model with her head laying off the edge of a bed, and her hair flowing about. Her long sensuous legs, in stockings,  raised up on pillows, and her arms spread wide. Decadently sensual and brazen.

Reclining Nude Entry Piece - Silver Slipper Collection

On the Left was a similarly sized painting, a composite of showgirls, breast, legs, and buttocks. There are magical finds in the recesses, picturing a clown figure and other surreal images of nudes.  The painting concocted images in viewers minds, of what they would likely find inside. And could find, no where else.

Las Vegas Follies  Entry Piece - Silver Slipper Collection

The eye popping and vibrant luminosity of the flesh tones, as only Julian could paint them, radiated in contrast to the dark background of the paintings, shown intimately in a dark room of brocade walls and drapes. All working perfectly to entice people into the casino to see and want, more.

Based on the social mores of the times, these paintings were shocking. That they were painted in such a masterful hand, so as to create that illusion of skin you could, and wanted to, touch. Unknown by many, it was Benny Binion and Moe Dalitz who 'okayed' the first purchase of Julian's paintings.  Benion told Julian of his plans for a "Silver Slipper" , and directed him to paint a series of paintings that bespoke of a Gay Nineties Bordello.

The Silver Slipper Collection was renowned. People were coming to the Slipper, just to see the paintings they had heard so much about.  The collection, which started at 13 pieces in the Frontier, grew to over 30 pieces by the time Julian was done adding to it . The last painting was added to the Collection,  circa 1964.

In 1968 a painting was stolen off a wall inside the Slipper.  After discovery by two of Sheriff Lamb's Detectives, they found that the thief didn't steal the painting to sell or make money. He simply liked the painting, and wanted to hang it on the living room wall of his apartment.  Where the Detectives found it.

After Howard Hughes purchased the Silver Slipper, he ultimately had to go to court to litigate with the Mob, about the ownership of the paintings. The Mob argued that the paintings were "furnishings" , and not part of the `real estate' purchase.  Hughes attorney's argued that the paintings were a part of the "Property" because they were nailed and screwed to the walls, thus affixed.  Hughes won,  and all of the paintings remained hanging in the Slipper, until sold to me (Greg Autry) in 1988.

As part of the negotiations, Julian and his dealer at the time, Bernie Schanz, were flown to Las Vegas to do an Appraisal of all the paintings. The Appraisal of the Collection at that time, was almost a half-million dollars.  This, was not long after Julian had been miraculously rescued by the USS Niagara Falls, aboard the ill fated Yawl, Galilee.

For more information, and more stories about the life and art of the amazing Julian Ritter, please go to the website for Julain Ritter, as well as the Facebook Page.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Julian Ritter Biography Sept 27, 2015


  Sept 27, 2015

              Julian Ritter (1909 - 2000) He was an artist of worldwide acclaim. Revered by those who loved his work, reviled by those he shunned. Born in 1909 he spent much of his childhood sketching and drawing around the docks in Hamburg, Germany and dreaming  of sailing the seas. 

Portrait of Julian Ritter - by Gene Forssell  1958

He immigrated  from Germany to New York in 1924 and attended the Chicago Art Institute briefly.  Julian Ritter studied with Stanley Reckless and graduated from Art Center College in Los Angeles, in 1932. He began showing his art in LA while still a student.  In 1939, he was hired to paint a 90' mural for the Mines and Minerals Building, at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

1939 Mines & Minerals Mural - Golden Gate International Exposition

Caplan Collection


          By 1941 he was showing  at the prestigious  Gallery of Modern Art  and Newhouse Gallery in New York City. Although his personality was ill suited for the sophisticated New York art scene, his work was admired and  very well received by the critics and public alike. 

Bimbos 365 Club - San Francisco

 He was prolific. Extraordinary as a draughtsman and colorist with a flair for the dramatic.  His early work demonstrated a style of rich vibrant color and swift purposeful brushwork. His later works would develop a Master's touch of glazing skin tones for women that created a luminosity not seen since the Masters of the Great Renaissance.  

Portrait of Joni Morgan

            Julian was an outgoing, vibrant man who had a passion for art, and a zest for life. Those who knew him spoke of his `presence'.  His studio always smelled of turpentine and oil paints, along with wafting pipe smoke and often cheap perfume of a naked model.  Mozart and Bach always played on his turntable.  This vibrant personality was a shield for the man who had little trust for others  and was driven to create his art.

Mr Whimsey - Silver Slipper Collection

The 1950's would see a remarkable string of work produced. Hired to produce work for multiple venues and galleries throughout the United States.  Showing at the Swiss Chalet Gallery  in the Bismarck Hotel, Chicago, Julian attended the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, and is inspired to start the Mr. Whimsy Clown series. In San Francisco, he is hired to paint a Nautical theme of Mermaids and King Neptune, including a 30' wall mural, at Bimbos 365 Club.  The paintings and mural are still at Bimbo's Club today.

Bimbos 365 Club - San Francisco

Bimbos 365 Club - San Francisco

            A trip to Mexico mid-decade saw a preponderance of masterful landscapes and portraits of the local people whom he grew to love. What would set the tone for the rest of his career, a Gay 90's themed series of paintings, which would become the Silver Slipper Collection, was created over years and  hung at The Silver Slipper Casino and Gambling Hall, in Las Vegas from 1950 until 1988.

Portrait of Janet Boyd - Collection of Greg Autry

Las Vegas Fantasy - Collection of Greg Autry

Las Vegas Follies  -  Silver Slipper Collection - Entry Piece
            Throughout his lifetime his paintings have been shown in hundreds, perhaps  thousands, of galleries around the world.  In 1963 his painting `Bachelor Housekeeping' became a part of the Permanent Collection at the famed de Young Museum in San Francisco.  

            Raised in depravation amongst `drunks and whores' Julian always had a fondness for the poor and the near-do-wells of the world. He disdained those of wealth and success, the very people he most needed to support his life as an artist. He professed he was "just a whore" for selling his work.

            Julian had several lovers during his lifetime. Physically strong with disarming charm, he had a passionate fire and sexual drive. He had only two women in his life, that he truly loved beyond all else.   Hilde Sabena  Meyer-Radon and Julian were married  in April 1943, while he served in the US Army.  Hilde and Julian would have two children, Christine 1947 and Michael 1948. Hilde inspired Julian, but in 1966 the unthinkable happened. After two years suffering with cancer, Hilde passed away.   Julian was distraught and could not comprehend his loss. He became a shut-in and a drunk.

Portrait of Laurie kokx

            Over a year went by, Julian  began to recount his childhood dreams to sail the world and paint.  Pulled out of a nightmarish depression, he began painting to raise money for his new adventure.  He sold the Santa Barbara home he and Hilde had bought, to buy a forty-five foot Yawl, The Galilee.  One last commission would secure the funds he needed to start his trip. That commission was for Adele Kokx, for whom Julian painted a portrait of  Adele's daughter, an introverted yet  beguilingly beautiful  seventeen year old, Laurie KokxJulian and Laurie developed a camaraderie and connection in their short time of portrait settings. 

Julian Ritter

            In  February 1968 Julian (Fifty-nine)  set the sails of The Galilee southward from Santa Barbara. Months later, in Acapulco after trading paintings for  food and board, as well as booze and women, the bar owner  was irritated at the attention the murals received in lieu of her "girls." 

Puntarenas Costa Rica
When Julian could not pay her upon demand, he was thrown into jail. Julian called the only number he could find, Laurie Kokx.  The headstrong Laurie persuaded one of Julian's patrons to provide his private plane and crew to fly her to Mexico to bail Julian out of th Mexican jail.

            In Acapulco, Laurie announced she would sail with Julian around the world. Laurie was mesmerized by his strong virile presence and over-the-top personality. She admired his confidence and creativity. They became lovers and soul mates sailing the seas. They would sail to Costa Rica where they would spend time, Julian painting and Laurie preparing for the next leg of the journey.  Laurie blossomed in an unbridled burst of hormones and youth. Julian drank in her flower and was emboldened. All who saw them together thought how they truly loved each other.  After six months in Puntarenas, they embarked on the next leg of the adventure, sailing west to French Polynesia and the Society Islands.  

            They spent a year in the Tahitian Islands, all the while Julian was painting and sending  work home for shows on the Mainland. He and Laurie were happy and free to do as they dreamed. His works sold out consistently, and he was asked for more and more paintings.  Julian amassed a large portfolio of his best works. These exquisitely painted  works he saved to take home himself.  In June of 1970, Julian and Laurie, along with a young German crewmate, set sail for Hawaii. Revived with Laurie's companionship and love, Julian had made peace with Hilde's passing.

Small portrait of Laurie Kokx
            The Galilee would head out for the last leg and the most arduous part of their journey,  bound for Honolulu. Within weeks trouble developed, and soon the Galilee was in distress.  Battered and beaten by a strong hurricane, mast broken , and all electronic equipment aboard disabled, the crew drifted for eighty-nine days. The last forty-nine days, with little food and water.  Miraculously,  literally hours before death, they were spotted and rescued by the supply ship, USS Niagara Falls, and taken to Honolulu. Sadly most of the paintings were lost at sea. 
Galilee in Distress- being rescued by USS Niagara Falls

Julian Ritters Map of Tahiti

Aboard the Galilee - Ritter Estate

            After a month in Hawaii, Laurie and Julian would fly home and begin their life together in Santa Barbara. Settling in Summerland where Julian would paint and greet his patrons and customers.  Laurie thrived for awhile, encouraging Julian to paint about his visions while lost at sea.  Julian would undergo a resurgence in his work,  painting with deep passion personal works of his visions, and his transcendence from deaths door. Julian's biggest despair was  the affects the  trip had on Laurie. At the time they were rescued, Dr. Phillip Becker would give no status as to "the girl." Later, he  declared Laurie had been only a couple of hours from death, and was indeed fortunate to have survived. 

Winfriend, Laurie, and Julian - USS Niagara Falls
            Demand for Julian's work continued to soar.  Julian declared himself  "done" with dealers and galleries, intending to sell only to his own customers and patrons.  The galleries wanted his work even more. Some renowned galleries resorted to forging work and signing his name.  Long before the marketing of "signed limited editions" came into vogue, International Art Publishing signed an exclusive deal to reproduce several of his nudes and clowns in large prints.  Gorham Company paid him handsomely to reproduce several works as collector plates  and statuary.  His fame from the Silver Slipper Collection grew, with the theft of a painting from the Silver Slipper, and later with Howard Hughes in litigation, in part,  over the Silver Slipper Art Collection.

Portrait of Howard Hughes

            In 1972 Julian attended a gallery show on Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas. Julian was taken with a tall, lanky redhead, who introduced herself as a showgirl at the Silver SlipperJanet Boyd would become muse and model for Julian and would pose for a "Big Portrait."  Julian's renaissance of Las Vegas works began anew.  
Portrait of Janet Boyd - Collection of Greg Autry
`The Portrait of Janet'   is now the most `iconic  showgirl' painting in Las Vegas history. The gorgeous showgirl would pose for Julian hundreds of times, including settings with her infant daughter Bianca.  In 1984, Janet would be instrumental in coordinating what would be Julian's last big  Las  Vegas  painting,  the Las Vegas Fantasy. A commissioned piece featuring  four showgirls and a clown.

Las Vegas Fantasy - Collection of Greg Autry

Julian continued painting his personal works from his memories aboard the Galilee as well as painting what his customers wanted, the Nudes, Clowns, and the Showgirls.  He ultimately chose to rely on sales to a handful of patrons, and only one dealer he would trust, Howard Morseburg.  

Howard Morseburg Gallery Brochure

            Over the years Laurie's condition would slowly deteriorate. She became lost in her own world, diminished in spirit and at a loss for purpose.  Briefly, Laurie opened a Flower Shop in Summerland that seemed to uplift her.  But sadly, in the summer of 1984, Julian would discover her in coitus  with their gardener. Julian devastated by her betrayal declared their relationship over.  He sold everything, including the amazing Torito Road  home and studio, in Summerland, and moved to Hawaii to live with his son.

            Upon moving to Maui, Julian spent the first seven months building a large and amazing two story studio to work in. The fates again clamored for Julian when in December of 1985 Julian suffered a massive stroke.  He would live for another fifteen years. He tried, but never really painted after the stroke. He taught  classes as best he could, and sold a few paintings. He did make one trip with his nurse, to Las Vegas, to sell paintings.  He spent most of his time reading and convalescing . His son, Michael, would take care of his father dutifully until Julian passed away, March 4, 2000.  Laurie passed away mysteriously in 2006. After the boat trip aboard the Galilee, she cajoled Julian to paint, to keep him from drinking, and to create a purpose for him. In her own life thereafter, she could find no defense of the bottle, and no purpose to go on.   She would neither take care of herself, nor stop drinking.

            Through a legacy of adventure, Julian pursued his passion for creating art and beauty at all cost. He shunned the ` Big Time Art World ' to pursue his vision as an artist and to paint what he was called to create. In talent and in execution, one of the great artists of the Twentieth Century.

Watch for the upcoming Biography, and Screenplay, currently in the works.  Read additional Stories about Julian's Life, Art, and Adventures,  at the Julian Ritter website, and on Facebook. 

Images provided from various sources used with permission. COPYRIGHT HOLDERS RETAIN ALL RIGHTS. 

Friday, September 18, 2015


 Las Vegas Follies
Silver Slipper Collection

This is a new Blog, and a supplement to the Julian Ritter Website.

My name is Greg Autry. I was a friend, a Patron, and a collector of Julian's work. I am currently writing a book about Julian's Life and Art, and living in Las Vegas while doing research for the book.

Greg Autry                                                              

model Yvonne Autry and Julian Ritter*
Torito Rd Studio, Summerland CA, circa 1983

As a businessman for 35 years, I was a General Contractor and Real Estate Developer. During that time I met Julian, and began a relationship with a man I grew to love dearly, and which would change my life forever.

Mr Whimsey
Silver Slipper Collection

I am retired now and my new "career" is that of an artist, a writer, and a photographer. I paint myself, in oils. I am a writer, writing the book and hopefully a screenplay about Julian, as well as a photojournalist doing articles for LA Splash Magazine, and others.  I'm also a professional photographer doing commercial fashion, editorial, and Events [I have individual Blogs and a website regarding my photography].

My photography and my art are focused primarily the Beauty of Women. Julian and I had that in common.

Portrait of Showgirl Janet Boyd*
purchased from the artist

I do Appraisals and Authentications of Julian work. I consult with Appraisers from around the country who often contact me because of my expertise.  As a painter myself, who sat by Julian and learned, while he painted, and as a Collector and Dealer in Art who attends Galleries and functions so as to know the Art Market, I have a unique Expertise when it comes to Julian's Art.  I do charge a fee for Appraisals, which are very reasonable.

I do Appraisals for original oil paintings, by Julian Ritter. No others.

Las Vegas Fantasy*
Private Commission

I'm also one of the largest private collectors in the world, of original Julian Ritter paintings.  My collection consist of paintings I commissioned Julian to paint, or that I purchased directly from Julian, or lastly, the Silver Slipper Collection, owned previously by Howard Hughes and which hung from 1950 through 1988 at the Silver Slipper Casino in Las Vegas.

I also know and work closely with the Julian Ritter Estate.

I will be doing regular Post here about Julian's Art, and things related to Julian.  Please do send me your comments , suggestions, and let me know what you think, anything you would like to see or know about.  I only require people be courteous and professional. You can see more on my Facebook Pages, as well as my website.

*Please feel free to Pin and Share Photos. No Commercial usage in either implied nor granted