Andrée Ruellan was born in New York City in 1905. Her parents had recently emigrated from France and they enrolled her at an early age in art classes with amateur artist Ben Liber. By the time she was nine years old, she had acquired the reputation of a child prodigy, and was invited to exhibit her drawings alongside work by Robert Henri and George Bellows. At fifteen, Ruellan was offered a scholarship to the Art Students League where she studied with Henri and Maurice Sterne. In 1922, Ruellan was offered a scholarship to Sterne’s newly opened art school in Rome. She traveled with her mother to Europe and studied with Sterne before continuing on to Paris in 1923. Paris was meant to be a short stop on their way back to New York, but the young artist and her mother were persuaded to stay. Ruellen thrived in the exciting artistic environment and began to develop her own distinct style. While in Paris she met another American artist, John Taylor, and the two married in 1929. The following year, they moved back to the United States and settled in the village of Shady, New York, just outside of Woodstock.
Upon their marriage, Ruellen and Taylor agreed to not work regular jobs, but to support themselves entirely with their art. Her mother lived with them and managed the household so that the couple could concentrate on developing their skills. During the Depression, Ruellen sold her drawings through the Weyhe Gallery in New York, and Taylor worked as an adjunct art professor at several universities which allowed them to travel. Throughout the 1930s, Ruellan and Taylor also made several trips to the South at the suggestion of their friend and fellow Woodstock artist, Alexander Brook. The genre scenes that she recorded in Savannah and Charleston, especially of African Americans, are among her best known works. Her style during this period can be classified as a part of the American Scene movement, a style that recorded everyday life in a straightforward way. Ruellan enjoyed success in the early forties and her paintings were acquired by several important collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Phillips Collection. However, she was deeply troubled by the outbreak of World War II and her style changed dramatically around 1945. Her palette became darker and her style was influenced by Surrealism. In 1954, following a trip to France, Ruellan’s art brightened and remained abstract.
In her Realist works from the 1930s and ‘40s, Ruellan strove to reveal the humanity of her subjects. Ruellan told an interviewer from American Artist magazine in 1943, “What moves me most is that in spite of poverty and constant struggle for existence, so much kindness and sturdy courage remain. Naturally I want to paint well designed pictures—but I also wish to convey these warmer human emotions.” She and her husband remained active participants at the artists’ colony at Woodstock over the next decades and she continued to produce art well into her eighties. She died in 2006 in New York at the age of 101.