No Man's Land ('Dat Devil Sea) signed 'W. Ritschel N.A.' (lower right) oil on canvas 50 x 60in overall: 63 1/2 x 73 1/4in
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Laguna Beach, California Thence to the current collection, Irvine, California
EXHIBITED: California Commission, Golden Gate International Exhibition, 1939. Springville, Utah, Springville High School Art Association, Inc. Monterey, California, Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey: The Artist's View, November - December 1982. Carmel, California, Carmel Art Association, Our First Five National Academicians, August 3 - September 5, 1989.
LITERATURE: Stern, Jean, Selections from the Irvine Museum, Irvine, 1992, p. 95, illustrated. Carmel Art Association, Our First Five National Academicians, Carmel, 1989, no. 106, illustrated full page color.
William Ritschel was a fixture in the Carmel area for decades. In 1918, the same year he was elected to the National Academy of Design, Ritschel began building, by hand, a stone castle along the Carmel cliffs. The home still exists today, just above the Pacific. Ritschel painted many of his coastal scenes in and around this home, named Castellammare. The numerous nearby rock outcroppings were perfect vantage points for painting his majestic views of the ocean and cliffs. Ritschel was commonly seen perched high atop the Carmel cliffs, easel at hand, dressed in a colorful sarong and floppy hat.
No Man's Land is an intimate view of the wave shaped rough hewn coast of Carmel. The painting is similar to many of Ritschel's impressionistic coastal scenes compositionally, with a focus on the crashing sea. The artist loved large-scale paintings, as he felt they captured the power of the sea all the more effectively. No Man's Land is a particularly grand work allowing the viewer to be virtually transported to the painter's side as he sits among the cliffs capturing the scene. One can almost hear the surf crashing.
In Selections from the Irvine Museum, Jean Stern writes about this masterpiece, "The strength and power seen in this dramatic work breaks the bounds of traditional Impressionism. The foreground area dominates the picture plane, revealing the artist's keen sense of composition and design and his ability to interpret the scene in a unique way."