Monica Ratliff Bio
Monica Ratliff was born in Los Angeles in 1958. Her interest in drawing and painting manifested at an early age. She participated in classes and programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and in many youth art educational opportunities, always with a focus on a career as an artist.
After graduating from high school she began serious studies at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. This small private institution had a strong figurative painting tradition and the best drawing department in the country, with intense focus on technique. While studying there she was fortunate enough to attend portrait and figure drawing class at the studio of renowned painter and teacher Thomas C. Leighton. Leighton, along with his wife, portrait artist Margery Lester-Leighton, ran a teaching studio that had a major influence on contemporary Bay artists. These two extremely talented artist produced many students who have continued to excel and merit critical recognition of their work.
As she worked to complete her college degree, she spent increasing time at the Leighton’s studio, eventually in every available class. These classes offered an integrated program of art, criticism and art history. Monica continued doing museum studies at the Legion of Honor and the De Young Museums in San Francisco, working from their extensive collections. She produced many large- scale drawings based on various masterworks. It was the emphasis on drawing and technique that was the essence of Thomas Leighton’s teachings, which he continued until his death in 1976.
Monica continued her studies in portraiture and still life with Margery Lester at the Leighton studio for another year.
After graduating from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977 with a Bachelors of Arts degree in painting, she returned to her native Southern California, embarking on a course of self-study at museums and private collections. This period saw the development of a painting style characterized by the prominence of drawing in her finished work.
In 1982 Monica began to see the regular exhibitions of her work, was well as a move to a new and larger studio space. This allowed for even larger canvases, as well as a shift to stronger color. In the course of those years she experimented with mixed media including printmaking, collage and sculpture. This resulted in several significant commissioned works.
Monica next moved to London in 1989 to undertake a serious study of nineteenth century painting and drawings in collection throughout England and Scotland. These studies in particular, of Pre-Raphaelite paintings had significant effect on the direction of her work. Monica married artist D.C. Niehaus in October of that year, and shortly there after they returned to their Southern California studio. The next decade saw the full impact of the knowledge gleaned from sojourn in the U.K. Monica began painting interior scenes influenced by the work of various British painters and draftsmen. Monica’s work had become essentially rooted in the technical mastery of drawing. Her love of classical music inspired her to add musical instruments to her highly detailed interior scenes, carefully researching the authenticity and history of each instrument.
Lovingly rendered and rich in decorative detail, these paintings bring together the various diverse influences acquired by decades of study. She as enjoyed the steady exhibition and wide popularity of these pieces.
The quality of her work in “Musical Journeys” is outstanding, and sustains repeated enjoyment to the viewer. The exceptional beauty of form and color, always to be found in Monica Ratliff paintings, is the mark of an artist in tune with beauty in all respects.