In 2004, a collection of work by Waukegan-born artist, Reima "Ray" Ratti (1914-1945) was donated to the museum from the estate of his fiancee, Mary Sadler. During his short life, Ratti produced an impressive amount of sketches and paintings of landscapes and people.
Photo portrait of Reima Ratti, date unknown. LCDM 2004.19.129.
The son of Finnish immigrants, Ratti's passion for art developed in high school. In 1935, Ratti was appointed the camp artist for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at Camp Estabrook near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"Driller" by Reima Ratti, oil on canvas, 1935 (LCDM 2004.19.7)
Ratti worked in oils, graphite, ink, pastel, and gouache. He often painted friends and family, and some landscapes as well. The oil portraits were done in the cottage studio he built at the back of the lot of his family's Waukegan home. Since he worked as a baker in the early morning hours before dawn, he was able to paint during the day when natural light was best.
"Portrait" of woman by Reima Ratti, pastel, date unknown (LCDM 2004.19.50)
"Landscape" by Reima Ratti, oil on canvas, date unknown (LCDM 2004.19.9.b)
"Young Man Carrying Pail" by Reima Ratti, pastel, 1945 (LCDM 2004.19.2)
Ratti found inspiration for his art all around him. His connection to the Finnish community of Waukegan, and recognition as an artist gave him access to the Finnish bathhouse where he sketched nudes.
During his lifetime, Ratti's work was recognized locally and regionally. His art was exhibited at the Milwaukee Public Museum and Art Institute of Chicago.
After his untimely death at the age of 31, Ratti's friends memoralized him and his work with local exhibitions and media coverage of a talent gone too soon.
"Self Portrait" by Reima Ratti, ink on paper, date unknown (LCDM 2004.19.162)
Research into Ratti's life and contribution to art are ongoing by museum staff. It is the hope to exhibit Ratti's work again in the coming years.