Trompe L'Oeil Paintings by Michael James Riddet


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About the Artist
     Living in Northwest England on the southern fringe of the reknowned Lake District provided a great place for a kid to learn about nature. His family had settled on the small island of Walney on the Irish Sea.
     In 1956 at the age of nine, his family emigrated to the United States, settling in the suburbs of Chicago. Upon entering 7th grade his fascination with art began, thanks to the efforts of Miss. Nettie J. McKinnon, Principal of Ogden Oak School. She had been purchasing original artwork for the school collection for many years. The money used to purchase these works was actually raised by the students each year by selling magazine subscriptions through the Curtis Publishing Company. "I would venture to guess that, over the years, most of the students did not really appreciate the fruits of their labor, but I do remember the day that a portrait by the eminent  painter, John Singer Sargent arrived and was hung in the art room."  Miss. McKinnon had an uncanny eye for both quality and the collection, now officially named "The Nettie McKinnon Collection of American Art" is one of the finest in the midwest.
     An influential mentor in his teens was noted marine artist, Charles Vickery. Charles had a studio in the same home town and always had his most recent masterpiece displayed in the studio window. Eventually, Michael gained enough confidence to enter his studio to show his work and, over time, as his work began to show promise, allowed to join Vickery and his cronies on Saturday mornings for donuts and coffee and discuss painting and how it was possible to make a living at the easel if you are willing to make sacrifices and learn how to starve gracefully.
     Insisting on painting in a representational manner during the late 1960's when art was going in different directions was not a pathway to successfully pursuing a career in art. Instead, he opted to get his university degree, much to his father's relief, in his other area of interest, the natural sciences. His father was a pragmatist. You could'nt make a living as an artist. He was right of course and Michael fondly recalls all the small five to fifteen dollar paintings he sold for spending money. 
     One of his favorite places to work on research was Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. He had taken an interest in painting animals, especially birds. Dr. Emmett Reid Blake, Curator Emeritus of Birds, allowed him access to the Museum's collections and was instrumental in furthering his career in 1975 by recommending to the Chicago Tribune Magazine that his paintings be used in a feature article on birds of the Midwest.
      It was at the same time that he had landed the position of artist/naturalist with a County Forest Preserve District outside Chicago, lecturing on natural history topics and teaching environmental education. It was a wonderful job, but five years later the increasing demand for studio painting also became a full-time job. The turning point came in a letter from Terry Shortt, known as the dean of Canadian bird painters who had a long association with the Royal Ontario Museum. He explained that it was time for Michael to concentrate on what he really enjoyed, painting the natural world. In 1979 Michael and his wife, Karen threw caution to the wind, pulled up stakes, cashed everything in and headed  to Southwest Wisconsin where they built a home and studio on fifty acres.
     A lot has happened since 1979. Works have been shown in over eighty museums here and abroad and have been featured at Christie's South Kensington Galleries in London and other British venues. He has had the honor of winning three Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp competitions, the first in 1984 and again in 1992 and 2003. Work has been selected for fifteen years into the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's prestigious "Birds in Art" exhibitions in Wausau, Wisconsin. Three works reside in their permanent collection. Works are also in the permanent collections of the Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, WI., the Thomasville Cultural Center, Thomasville, GA,. Rossignol Cultural Center, Nova Scotia, and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  Tucson, AZ.  A highlight in 1996 was being elected into the Society of Animal Artists in New York and being awarded the Society's Award of Excellence bronze medal. In 2001 he was elected into Chicago's Palette & Chisel Academy of Art, and more recently, inclusion in the book, Famous Wisconsin Artists and Architects by Hannah Heidi Levy and membership into  the International Guild of Realism.
     Although best known for natural history paintings and scientific illustration, his work in the late 90's began to shift toward Trompe L'Oeil. It was not an intentional shift in painting but simply a refreshing break. It was technically demanding, he could use his imagination, it was totally speculative and, in the artist's words, "it was fun". An aspect of natural history still creeps into most pieces however. Some works deal with social, political or environmental commentary, while others invite the viewer into interpreting the painted image. These recent paintings have been featured in American Artist Magazine, Acrylic Highlights Magazine and American Art CollectorMuseums exhibiting these new works include the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI., the American Numismatic Museum, Colorado Springs, CO., and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ. 

Originals Have Been Shown at the Following Selected Museums and Institutions

Explorer's Hall, National Geo. Society, Wash. D.C.                                     Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL                                                 West Valley Art Museum, Surprise, AZ
California Academy of Science                                                                Arizona State Museum West, Surprise, AZ
University of Alaska Museum                                                               Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, TX
Field Museum of Natural History Chicago, IL                                         Bergstrom Mahler Museum, Neenah, WI
Iida City Museum, Iida City, Japan                                                      Mariner's Gallery, Cornwall, England
Kurayoshi City Museum, Japan                                                                 Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, WI
High Desert Museum, Bend, OR                                                         Rossignol Cultural Center, Nova Scotia
Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, AL                                             Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ
Rochester Museum & Science Ctr. Rochester, NY                                       American Numismatic Museum, Fort Collins, CO
Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor, ME                                         Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, CO
American Museum of Wildlife Art                                                         Holland&Holland Gallery, New York, NY
National Canadian Museum of Nature                                                       Safari Club International, Reno, NV
Virginia Museum of Natural Science                                                    Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters, Science WI
National Wildlife Federation, Washington, DC                                               The Haggin Museum, Stockton, CA
Witte Museum, San Antonio, TX                                                         Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL
Carnegie Mus. of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA                                  Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL     
Neville Public Museum, Green Bay, WI                                                         City of Portsmouth Museum Portsmouth, VA
Delaware Museum of Natural History                                                   Longmont Museum, Longmont, CO
Chicago Academy of Natural Sciences, Chicago, IL                                 Lakeview Museum of Arts & Science, Peoria, IL
Nicolayson Art Museum, Casper, WY                                                         Philip & Muriel Berman Museum of Art, PA
Ella Sharp Museum, Jackson, MI                                                         Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA
Anniston Museum of Natural History, Anniston, AL                                     Nevada State Museum, Carson City, NV
West Bend Art Museum, West Bend, WI                                                  Brogan Museum of Art & Science, Tallahassee, FL
Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI                                                 Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury, MD
Fort Morgan Museum, Fort Morgan, CO                                                Richeson School of Art & Gallery, Kimberly, WI
Thomasville Cultural Center, Thomasville, GA                                           Newington Cropsy Foundation, NY
University of Nebraska Museum, Lincoln, NE                                            Wildling Art Museum, Los Olivos, CA
Academy Art Museum, Easton, MD                                                       Department of the Interior Museum, Wash. D.C.
Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, Southern Utah Univ.                                  Peninsual Art School, Bailey's Harbor, WI           

Utah Museum of Natural History Salt Lake City, UT                                 Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur, TX
Michelson Museum of Art, Marshall, TX                                                      Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI
Salmagundi Club, New York, NY