Leonard Ruder’s basement paintings

Leonard Ruder: Evidence of a Life’s Work,” guest curated by Silas Cook. Art Gym at Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR. Through Feb. 13.

90-year-old painter Leonard Ruder reminds me of my father, also something of a reclusive artist, who used to hole up in his basement studio and paint. After Ruder graduated from the Cranbrook Academy in 1950, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston included his work in a national traveling exhibition. Ruder moved to Portland in 1950, and the Portland Art Museum presented his art alongside works by Louis Bunce and Carl Morris in several Oregon Annuals in the 1950s. Over the ensuing decades, Bunce and Morris gained public renown, while Ruder worked quietly in the studio and supported his family as a Portland Public Schools custodian. He regularly sold work through the museum’s Rental Sales Gallery, but rarely exhibited elsewhere. His daughter brought his paintings to Silas Cook’s attention, who says Ruder is “among the best artists ever to pick up a brush in Portland.”

In The Oregonian, D.K. Row visits Ruder in his studio where Ruder talks about his life as an artist. “Wearing black slippers, a heavy sweater and a plaid wool coat against January’s chill, Ruder stepped down his basement stairs last week with the cautious gait of a man in his 10th decade. His hair and the stubbly whiskers on his chin are white, but he still cuts a handsome figure, lanky and elegant. A shelf on the basement’s far wall holds a photo of the artist around 1950, when he finished up at Detroit’s Cranbrook Academy of Art. In the picture, he sports a tweed blazer, dark hair slicked back in the style of the day and the serious expression of a man immersed in his work. He doesn’t look up –doesn’t turn his attention to the camera lens or anyone who might be watching. All these years later, Ruder seems to feel the same way about his art, a lifelong pursuit that he mostly kept private. ‘I love to paint,’ he said, ‘but it’s still something very personal.’ So personal he’s reluctant to share details about his motivations or artistic evolution. But his family and friends indicate that Ruder needs painting the way people need air. It engages his mind, fills his heart and keeps him breathing.” Read more.

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