van Ruhs.jpg

Marlinde von Ruhs
Oil on canvas


Marlinde von Ruhs (1924– ), born near Salzburg, studied art in Dusseldorf, Vienna, and with painter Oskar Kokoschka in Salzburg. Having survived the adversities of Anschluss and Nazi ascendancy she immigrated to the United States continuing her studies at the Art Students League in New York, and the University of California, Berkley. From the gaunt angst of Austrian Expressionism led by Kokoshka and Egon Schiele, she emerged to wield a more lyrical brush avoiding the severe tension that rips through paintings by other European expressionists in the years surrounding the second World War. In 1965 Marlinde von Ruhs married noted book designer and printer Merle Armitage. It was in connection with Bridwell Library’s collection of books written, designed, published, or printed by Armitage that founding director Decherd Turner met von Ruhs for tea at her home in Guadalajara. He purchased this painting from her.

Marlinde’s painting Marionettes is populated by eighteenth-century ladies, a gentleman, soldier, nun, peasant, and bishop, in a setting that might recall the verdant depth of a Bavarian forest. Suspended above a yellow ground they each engage the viewer openly seemingly without rank or posture for the roles they may play.

In many instances, [Marlinde’s] painting is decorative in the best sense of that overworked and misunderstood word . . . she cannot and does not copy nature in a servile manner. She interprets nature and filters it through her own strong esthetic, emotional and imaginative mentality.

Her materials are . . . evocative elements of nature and man. Exotic flowers, weathered timber, dead weeds, brightly colored rocks, patinas on ancient bronzes, encrustations, eroded canyons, sleeping mountains, the deep green scum of stagnant pools.

These are her elements, which her conceptual mind feeds upon, and which her inventive and intuitive mind arranges into pictures . . . pure Marlinde statements. She uses these remembered materials as a composer uses tones, to compose and to create. . . .

Personally, Marlinde von Ruhs has the deep philosophy of the born European . . . she spent her early life in Salzburg, and has studied in the best art schools of Europe and America . . . which possibly gave facility to her technique. But her esthetic imagination is a very personal property. Her mind in all things is mature. She has known the privations, the indignities and horrors of war.

Yet she possesses the gaiety of a sprite, demanding the freedom of a bird. With her, to soar is necessary to creation. A creature of wit, charm and laughter. . . . In the world of the commonplace, Marlinde is the unself-conscious practitioner of living each day unfettered, joyously and actively. Painting and its joys compensate for the negative and the destructive forces of the world. . . .

—from Merle Armitage, The Art of Marline. Yucca Valley: Manzanita Press.