Many have stood before the paintings of Monet, Van Goh, Vermeer and wondered about the artist. Who was he? How did he live? What was his studio like? 

One local woman, Nancy Rittenhouse, has taken these questions and formed them into a rather unique hobby. 

Van Goh paints "The Bedroom" in this miniature version of his bedroom.
Van Goh paints "The Bedroom" in this miniature version of his bedroom.

She commissions artists to create miniature dolls of particular artists. 

She and her husband, John, then build a replica of the artist’s studio to house the doll. She commissions other artists to create miniature replicas of the artist’s paintings to give the doll a piece to work on in its studio. 

Patrons at the upcoming Small Works and Miniatures Exhibition at the Art League of Bonita Springs this Friday, March 5, will have a chance to see this private collection of detailed miniatures. 

“I was interested in the artist,” Rittenhouse said, “what he is doing, and putting a room together for him.” 

Miniature Vermerr Girl with a Pearl Earring
A miniature scene of Vermeer painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" in his studio.

At the exhibition patrons will see Vermeer working in his studio, painting Girl with a Pearl Earring while a miniature version of the girls sits and poses. The two appear to be carrying on a conversation as the girl wears a slight smirk on her face. 

On a nearby pedestal, Monet sits on a bench enjoying the serenity of his garden. 

Van Gogh is painting Self-Portrait (Spring-Summer 1887) with finished canvases of The Starry Night and Sunflowers propped nearby as if waiting to be taken to a gallery. Another, more disheveled Van Gogh is standing and painting La Chambre à coucher (The Bedroom) In the background his bedroom appears exactly as in the painting, with a water decanter on the night table and paintings on the wall. 

A miniature scene depictiong Grant Wood as he paints "American Gothic"
A miniature scene depictiong Grant Wood as he paints "American Gothic"

Winslow Homer sits in his library painting The Fog Warning (1885) which is so like the original, it is as if someone has used a magic shrinking machine to create this piece. 

The poised Georgia O’Keeffe stands in her studio beside the finished canvas Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue. And around the corner Toulouse Lautrec paints his wonderful French ladies. 

Degas works in his studio painting Ballerina while nearby a ballerina stands shyly as he captures her on canvas. Gauguin works in the studio of his friend Van Goh while Grant Wood paints American Gothic in his bib overalls, while standing in his kitchen. 

Each piece is extremely detailed and created after much research into the artists’ lives. 

The miniature studios are the perfect complement to the exhibition Small Works and Miniatures. This collection of miniature artworks shows that big things come in small packages. The tiny paintings by local artists hold exquisite detail made from delicate brush strokes. This annual exhibition is always a crowd favorite. 

The opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 5 in conjunction with a campus-wide open house and an opening reception for the Southwest Florida Pastel Society in the Main Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through March 18. 

Information is available at or by calling 239.495.8989.


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