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Obituary: Ruth Eckstein

1916-2011

Ruth Eckstein, an internationally known prize-winning abstract artist, died at her home in Newton, MA, on Nov. 23, 2011. The cause of death was stomach cancer, according to her daughter, Susan Eckstein. She was 95 years old.

Ruth studied art at the Art Students League in New York City, and at the North Shore Community Arts Center on Long Island, inspired by Harry Sternberg. Her work spanned many mediums, including print, painting, and collage. She had three dozen solo shows and over five dozen group shows in the US, Europe, and Latin America. She recently had a show at Kantar Fine Arts. Her work is included in the collections of nearly three dozen museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Public Library, and the Fogg Museum in Boston, and institutions in Rome, Paris, London, and Nurnberg, plus numerous universities and libraries and scores of corporations.

Ruth was born in Nuremberg, Germany on May 11, 1916. As a teenager she worked in her father’s fabric store and then took an early interest in art. She met George (Gunther) Eckstein, a friend of her brother Gus. George worked in a family toy business and was active in left-leaning political activities. In 1933, the Nazis arrested him. He spent several months in jail and was eventually released. After his release, he fled to Switzerland and then to Paris, where Ruth joined him.

Ruth and George lived in Paris for five years and were active members of the German refugee community. They married and continued their business of making and selling stuffed toys. It was in Paris that their first daughter, Margaret, was born. In 1939, fearing a Nazi invasion, George and Ruth left Paris for New York City. A number of their relatives also managed to flee to America.

In New York, George and Ruth resumed their toy making business, founding Eden Toys Ltd. Ruth designed the company’s stuffed animals. Their second daughter, Susan, was born in New York City. They subsequently left the city for Manhasset and then Great Neck. George spent his spare time writing social, cultural, and political commentary for US and European periodicals, journals, and radio programs, including, in the U.S., for Dissent on whose editorial board he served. He also wrote a book on the New Left. Retiring early, he devoted full-time to writing, while Ruth continued with her art.

In 2003, Ruth moved to Newton, MA, to be close to her daughter and her family. She lived in Lasell Village, where she took courses, and continued with her art. No longer with room for her own studio, she took up a new medium that required less space: ceramics. Aside from her daughter Susan, a professor of sociology and international relations at Boston University, she is survived by three grandchildren—Leslie Loble, Rachel Osterman and Michelle Osterman—and two great-grandchildren, Jeremy Muller and Adam Mueller. Ruth’s first daughter, Margaret, passed away in 2002. Services are private.