Ruth D. Grotenrath Mrs. Schomer Lichtner (1912 - 1988)

Birth date: 3/17/1912 Death date: 1988  
Birth location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: Decorative Art , Graphic Art , Illustration , Painting Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Represented in the permanent collection of the Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.


Ruth Grotenrath
Born 1912 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died 1988 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Ruth Dorothy Grotenrath developed an interest in art while attending Riverside High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Milwaukee State Teachers college in 1933 where her instructors were Gustave Moeller, Robert von Neumann and Elsa Ulbricht.

 In 1934 Ruth married Milwaukee artist, Schomer Lichtner and by 1935 both were employed by the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) Treasury Relief Art Project. During this time she painted three post office murals: "Boy Rounding Up Stock," an oil on canvas in 1941, Hart, Michigan; "Unloading A River Barge, " in tempera, 1943, Hudson, Wisconsin, and a Social Realist mural in tempera titled "Pines of the North,"  Wayzata, Minnesota in 1947.  Ruth’s early work from the thirties tended to be of the American Regionalist style with serious subjects and somber tones.

Brighter colors began to appear in her work in the forties, such as "My Wisconsin" (1948), depicts whimsical farm animals in a style influenced by her husband, Schomer Lichtner. In the fifties she began using water based casein paint and her subjects were influenced by Japanese art.

In 1945, Ruth was on the staff at the Layton School of Art where she taught still life painting. In 1954, she produced and sold her own designs of silkscreen printed drapery fabric at the Wisconsin State Fair. In 1961 she taught design at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and at The Clearing in Door County. Ruth was a member of Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors.

Her later works, after 1960, are very colorful still-loves using abstract elements that often reflect oriental art and culture influenced by a trip to Japan. Ruth and Schomer’s shared studio and home and garden were decorated and influenced by their interest in Japanese art and culture.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel art critic, James Auer was quoted as saying “Ruth Grotenrath was a woman who not only persisted but prevailed in the largely male controlled art business of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.” In this sense she was much like her mentor Elsa Ulbricht. Ruth’s art seems to carry a theme of the celebration of sensual loveliness in life and the world. As a Zen artist she was receptive to the environment and aware of the moment.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

1938, 1948
Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin
1962 Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin
1966,1968, 1969,1971, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1987
Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1969 Rahr-West Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin
1975 Washington Art gallery, Washington, Connecticut
1984 Seuferer-Chosy Gallery, Madison, Wisconsin
1988 Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, Memorial Exhibition

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

1937 Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (prize winner)
1937 Wisconsin Salon, Madison, Wisconsin (prize winner)
1939 World’s Fair, New York, New York
1942 Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors Annual Exhibition (medal winner)
1945 49th Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
1948 Wisconsin State Centennial Exhibition of Contemporary Wisconsin Art, Layton Art Gallery and Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin (traveled throughout Wisconsin)
1949 National Serigraph Society Exhibition, New York, New York (prize winner)
154th Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
1965 Wisconsin in Art, Lakeland College, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Celebration 100: A Century of Alumni Art, University Art Museum, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
100 Years of Wisconsin Art: 1888/1988: A Centennial Celebration, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, 1988

Selected Publications

1967 Ruth Grotenrath, Wisconsin Architect Magazine (January 1967, pp.16-17) by Margaret Fish
1987 Wisconsin Artist: Ruth Grotenrath, Wisconsin Woman Magazine (May 1987, pp. 28-29) by Barbara Manger
1988 Ruth Grotenrath: A Memorial Retrospective, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin , 1988. Text by Dean Sobel.

Celebration 100: A Century of Alumni Art, University Art Museum, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

100 Years of Wisconsin Art: 1888/1988: A Centennial Celebration, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, 1988.


German – American Artists In Early Milwaukee: A biographical Dictionary, c.1997 Max Kade Institute For German – American Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Compiled by Peter C. Merrill.

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