Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Journey to Julian's Last Las Vegas Painting

Jan 19, 2017
by Greg Autry

Early 1984 as I recall now, I came up with an idea for a painting that I proposed to Julian, and he was very enthusiastic about. It was a bit of a `spin' on some of his early works. A Clown, with Showgirls.  Truly, the nudes and showgirls were not what Julian painted in 1984, when he painted for himself. But like any artist who makes a living selling his art, he painted what the clientele wanted.

I was like so many others, as I was enamored with the gorgeous lushness of his nudes and showgirls. The paintings that had made him famous, since painting The Silver Slipper Collection beginning in 1950's, for the Las Vegas Mob, were still what his clients clamored for.  But truly by this time, Julian rarely if ever had a real passion about doing nudes. He could churn them out without much thought or regard. Too often, these later paintings show that disregard.

The Conductor II - 1983
Original Oil painting by Julian Ritter
 My idea was to dress up as a clown myself, and to have a whole bevy of Showgirls around me. My own fantasies of Showgirls, Vegas Glamour, and the sensual sexuality of all that Julian's works conjured up for me, would be encapsulated in this one painting. As I described it to Julian, sitting in his studio on Torito Road one Sunday, he began to draw sketches with conte crayons on a roll of vellum. He rapidly drew sketch after sketch, tearing off the paper and dropping one, then another, onto the floor as I talked.

Greg as the Clown Figure in the Las Vegas Fantasy
Original oil painting by Julian Ritter
When I remarked, amazed, at how fast he could draw as though he was not looking at what he was doing, he laughed heartily and said, `I'm just a fucking wonder!' Then he took a big gulp of the Brandy in a glass on the floor beside his chair and said watch this.  He proceeded to tear off a sheet of the vellum and put it on his board, to which he then sat his board on the floor in front of him where he sat, facing me in a chair opposite.

Janet Boyd Showgirl figure in The Las Vegas Fantasy
Original oil paintings by Julian Ritter
He took a piece of the conte and without looking at the board, upside down, and backwards, he looked directly at me while he sketched  two perfect nude female figures. Still looking at me, with my mouth agape, he laughed again, took another big swig on the brandy. That, 5 minute, exhibition is something I will ever forget in my lifetime.

`Teressa' - Showgirl figure in The Las Vegas Fantasy
Original oil painting by Julian Ritter
We talked more about the posing, and finally agreed on a study sketch as the basis for the painting. The sketch had two showgirls, I then I decided it needed more girls. We agreed there would be four Showgirls, and me, as a clown. Five Figures. We negotiated a price, well I should say, we haggled about a price.  Julian loved the bantering about prices and making the deal, almost as much as he loved doing the painting. Julian knew I could afford it, and no doubt I paid a little more than I might have. But I was truly happy and wanted him to do a great job, and most importantly as an artist myself I know how important it is that artists feel's their work is truly appreciated.

We agreed to hire four Showgirls from Las Vegas, and bring them to Julian's studio in Summerland, for Julian to draw and work on the painting. Julian's first suggestion, which was a mandate actually, was for me to hire Janet Boyd as one of the models.

`Ronnie' - Showgirl figure in The Las Vegas Fantasy
Original oil painting by Julian Ritter
Julian had in his studio the iconic Portrait of Janet, at the time I met him. The first thing I did when I saw that painting was to ask Julian if I could buy it, which Julian declined, and would decline continually. I didn't understand Julian's relationship with Janet at that time, all I knew was that she was a megastar showgirl. Julian gave me her address and phone number.  I was actually too intimidated to call her, so I wrote her a letter, telling her about the project and asking to meet with her. 

`Helen' - Showgirl figure in The Las Vegas Fantasy
Original oil painting by Julian Ritter
The painting that Julian would do, would be the now Iconic `Las Vegas Fantasy.' It would in fact be that last painting Julian would ever go to Las Vegas to do.  And I will tell that story, and more about Julian and Janet, next time.

I continue to work on my book about The Life and Art of Julian Ritter. Research is never ending, and I continually discover new things I want to include. I need a good editor at this point to start going through it, looking at format, and culling it down perhaps. Stay tuned !

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