An exhaustive painter-traveller who exhibited his work across the world, Richard Dey de Ribcowsky achieved considerable commercial success in his own lifetime by producing dramatic oil paintings of the diverse landscapes of early-twentieth century America. His masterly handling of light was developed through a self-taught technique that he referred to as ‘Reflex Style’. Richard Dey de Ribcowsky was born in Rustchuk (now known as Ruse), in Bulgaria, on 13 October 1880. At the age of 13, rather than go to military school, de Ribcowsky travelled to Paris to begin his formal artistic training. He would continue his studies in Florence and, in 1902, in Petrograd, where he won his first award for his work. In 1904, he travelled to Argentina, where he founded the Buenos Aires Academy of Beaux-Arts.
He continued to travel extensively as a young man, exhibiting and winning prizes for his work as widely as Montevideo (1908), Odessa (1909), Rio de Janeiro (1909), Moscow (1910) and Sofia (1910), developing a burgeoning reputation as a talented painter, particularly of maritime scenes and seascapes.
In 1910, de Ribcowsky moved to the United States of America, settling in New York City. However, his move to the United States did not curb his wanderlust, as he turned his attention to the rich variety of the American landscape, including cityscapes of New York City, sweeping panoramas of the Grand Canyon, the Chihuahuan desert of Texas, sun-dappled views of the Californian coastline and Redwood forests.
De Ribcowsky developed a particular connection with southern California, and settled in Inglewood in the early 1920s. By this time, his work had achieved substantial commercial success, with a number of his paintings reproduced as extremely popular lithographs. From the early 1930s, his paintings even began being reproduced as jigsaw puzzles.
His paintings demonstrated a remarkable handling of light, which de Ribcowsky achieved through a self-taught technique he termed ‘Reflex Style’. This technique focussed on the way natural light carries and bounces colours off different objects, blending tones and illuminating them to produce a naturally brilliant palette.
A car accident in 1931 left de Ribcowsky wheelchair-bound. It seems that he was still able to travel to a degree, as the records of the Society of Independent Artists, a New York based artists’ association founded in 1916, indicates that in 1933 he was staying at the Beacon Hotel, New York, from where the present work was painted. However, he spent his final years living in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. His paintings were on permanent display and for sale in the public rooms of the hotel, and quickly became popular with Hollywood’s elite, as the Ambassador Hotel was home to the glamorous Cocoanut Grove nightclub, frequented by such stars as Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn and Clark Gable. De Ribcowsky died in Los Angeles on 15 August 1936.