Jan DeRuth Biography

1922 - 1991

Czech-American artist, Jan De Ruth is best known for his beautiful FIGURATIVE paintings.

Born in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, the artist received training at Rotter Art School, Prague; Ruskin Art School, Oxford University, England; ASL New York; and the New School, New York.

During his prolific career, Jan deRuth exhibited in over 38 National Juried Exhibitions, 14 Museum Solo Shows and 51 Gallery Solo Exhibitions. He also authored two acclaimed books: Portrait Painting (1964) and Painting the Nude (1968).

His achievements also include a portrait of Ethel Kennedy for the cover of the Time Magazine .

A native of Czechoslovakia and now an American citizen, gespent the years of World War II being shunted through 5 different concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz. He made four escape attempts and finally made good on his fifth try.

De Ruth constantly sought materials with which to draw, but "The only things we had were the few pieces of cloth we wore," he recalled, in an interview. By chance, he was transferred to Germany as part of a labor detail and managed to sneak a pencil away from the camp supervisor-"I became a perfect thief during those years," he said. Jan drew a mother and child on a scrap of paper he scrounged from the factory where he worked, filled it in with shadings of coffee in various strengths-his finger was his brush. He exchanged the sketch for a piece of bread from a camp guard, and in effect, sold his first painting.

In March of 1945, after being transferred to his native Czechoslovakia, he made his successful escape "knowing every step of the way." After the war, De Ruth became the commissar in a small Czech town and remained in the post for one year, just long enough to forge some documents that allowed him to flee to England. He took up residence in London and enrolled at the Ruskin Art School in Oxford University. He arrived in the USA in 1948.

From '48 to 1955 he supported himself by working at night, earning his way painting designs on neckties and bathroom cups; as a fashion designer, illustrator, vacuum cleaner salesman, theatre manager, and actor. In '55 Jan De Ruth made his professional debut as a full-time artist and two years later his first one-man show established him as a serious painter.

His work has been acclaimed for combining the technique of the old masters with a modern manner, and has been exhibited in more than 40 one-man shows in galleries and museums across the United States.

De Ruth, author of the books "Portrait Painting" and "Painting the Nude," has devoted his entire life to painting the female face and form. He enjoys special popularity as a portraitist and has become one of the best known painters of the nude female in the world today. Often asked why he concentrates on this most demanding of all art subjects he replies: . . . "Each painting of the nude becomes a new experience . . . It (the human figure) is nature's most perfect and most imperfect creation, communicating, even in silence and immobility, the physical and spiritual power-and frailty- of humanity."

Articulate, sophisticated, outspoken and well informed, De Ruth has also been a leading guest on radio and television shows. But, it is painting that gives a purpose to Jan De Ruth's existence: "It is an unending challenge-there is no end, no final result-to be found in painting the human body. I have never seen two gestures that are alike, but so are the possibilities of expression. There will always be painters who will find one more way of saying: "See! This is what I feel about humans." . . . So until a greater challenge and a more profound symbol comes along, it is the human figure I wish to paint."

Selected Awards

Butler Institute of American Art Purchase Prize

Oguniquit Art Center

Knickerbocker Artist 1964

Audubon Artist, Grumbacher Purchase Prize

National Arts Club of America Gold Medal

Windsor-Newton Award of the National Arts Club


B'nai B'rith Museum - Washington D.C.

Florida Gulf Coast Art Center - Clearwater, Fla.

Mint Museum of Art - Charlotte, N.C.

Neville Public Museum - Green bay, Wisconson

Lauren Rogers Museum - Laurel, Miss.

Theodore Wright Art Center - Beloit, Wis.

Bowling Green State College - Bowling Green, Ohio

Catawba College - Salisbury, N.C.

East Central State College - Ada, Oklahoma

Fairleigh Dickinson University - New Jersey

Rochester Public Library - Rochester, N.Y.


Allied Artists of America

American Artists Professional League

Audubon Artists

Berkshire Art Association, Berkshre Museum

Boston Society of Independent Artists

Connecticut Academy

Knickerbocker Artists

National Academy of Design

National Arts Club

New York City Center

New York State Exposition

Ogunquit Art Center

Painters and Sculptors Society of New Jersey