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.