Ruth Pratt Bobbs

Ruth Pratt Bobbs
(9/3/1884 – 1/15/1973)

Ruth Pratt Bobbs’ 1917 painting, “Portrait of a Woman.” Photo credit:

Born in 1884 in Indianapolis to Julius Fisher Pratt and Mary Ann Smith, Ruth Pratt Bobbs began her art training at age 8 when her mother took her to a Saturday art school. By age 16, both of her parents had died, and she studied abroad at the Academie Julian in Paris, returning to study in New York with famous Indiana-born painter William Merritt Chase. By the time she came back to Indianapolis to continue her training at the John Herron Art Institute, Bobbs had studied with Robert Henri, Kenyon Cox, and Frank Vincent DuMond. She also worked with Charles Webster Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

At age 28 in 1912, Ruth married William C. Bobbs, president of the Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Company. For their honeymoon, they had booked a trip to England aboard the RMS Titanic on what should have been its return trip to England following its maiden voyage to the U.S. Of course, the ill-fated RMS Titanic tragically sank on April 15, 1912. Mr. Bobbs, 23 years her senior, died in 1926.

Ms. Bobbs returned to Paris and her painting for a time before returning to Indianapolis, where she opened a studio on Delaware Street, then later moved to the Propylaeum. Because she was born into a wealthy family, many thought she wasn’t serious about a career in art. Proving them wrong, Ms. Bobbs became one of the leading female artists and portrait painters in Indianapolis from the 1930s through the 1950s. She was very sought after for her portraits of Indiana’s local citizens — including many women.

In 1933, she displayed her work in the state’s exhibit at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. Some of her works are in the permanent collections of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (Newfields) and the Indiana Medical History Museum. She was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the Art Association of Indianapolis, the Hoosier Salon, and the Portfolio Club.

She told the Indianapolis Star in 1946, “Portraiture is never photography. It is seeing the medium through your own eyes and personality.” Ms. Bobbs died in 1973.

Buried in Section 29, Lot 43; GPS (39.8167626, -86.1712432)