Homage to Caesar Ritz and the artist family Lorenz and Raphael Ritz

Painting by Raphael Ritz (1829-1894) - "Woman reading in a kitchen on Valeria", 1881
Painting by Raphael Ritz (1829-1894) - "Woman reading in a kitchen on Valeria", 1881


In 1796 Justin Lorenz Ritz was born in the 'Schloss' in Niederwald. Nobody thought at that time that he would become one of the most famous portrait painters of the Valais, drawing teacher, politician and officer.
Half a century later, in 1850, Caesar Ritz was born in the same small village, less than 50 metres from the 'Schloss'. He was a far relative of Justin Ritz, and no one in his family would have thought that he would become famous as the inventor of the luxurious hotel business and be given the nickname 'King of Hoteliers'.
While Justin Lorenz Ritz remained faithful to his homeland after initial years abroad, he lived in Brig and later in Sion, Caesar Ritz celebrated his success especially outside Switzerland.


Both personalities lived in a turbulent time, which strongly influenced their fate and career. Justin Lorenz Ritz was three years old when he experienced the invasion of Napoleon's troops and the formation of Switzerland accompanied by many conflicts; Caesar Ritz fled from the troops of the Communards from Paris in 1871, where he returned a year later. He then successfully managed hotels in Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany and England until he was dismissed from the management of the Hotel Savoy in London in 1886 and was able to open his first hotel in Paris in 1898: the Hotel Ritz! However, this success was followed by a severe setback when Caesar Ritz suffered a nervous breakdown from which he was never to recover.


Justin Lorenz Ritz found a successor in the person of his son Raphael, a very talented genre painter, which earned him the nickname 'The Raphael of the Valais'; Caesar Ritz in the person of his wife Marie-Louise, who continued the legacy of her husband with much knowledge and skill. Charles, one of her sons, supported her, but he lacked the charisma and enthusiasm of his father and mother.


An exhibition will be dedicated to each of the two well-known citizens of Niederwald in the new visitor centre. Over the past two years, Martin Brauen, the curator responsible for the exhibitions, has collected suitable material. While there is already a lot of material on the two artists - scattered across several collections - there are surprisingly few objects on Caesar Ritz. So it was a stroke of luck that large parts of the 'old' Hotel Ritz in Paris were auctioned off in April 2018. With the help of a patron from Bern, the entire furniture of a hotel room could be bought at auction, which will be set up in the exhibition under the name 'Suite M' - 'Suite M' in memory of Marie-Louise Ritz, who was always actively involved in the furnishing of the hotel rooms, but also of the patron (Marlies K.), thanks to whom the objects could be acquired.


We also collected old photos, documents, advertisements, in which the name Ritz stands for ultimate luxury, films and music related to Ritz, menus, promotional gifts, etc. The filmmakers Frank Garbely and Adrian Zschokke gave us permission to show the film 'Ritz - Hotelier of the Kings, King of the Hoteliers' in the exhibition.
We are also allowed to show some photos by the well-known French photographer Roger Schall and the Swiss photographer Paul Senn, as well as photos by the Bündner photographer Hans Domenig.
The drawings/sketches by Raphael Ritz scattered in various collections were almost all photographed or recorded (ETH, State Archives Zurich, Swiss National Museum, Sion Art Museum), so that they can be explored by the public on laptops or tablets.
We will also cooperate with private collectors and the Sion Museum of Art, as well as with the Valais State Archives and several other Swiss museums.


For the first time, the two well-known citizens of Niederwald - Caesar Ritz and Justin Lorenz Ritz - will return to their home village and show that the so-called 'American dishwasher dream' was and is also possible in Switzerland.