Ruth Grotenrath was born in Milwaukee in 1912 and attended Riverside High School where she developed her interest in art. By 1933, Grotenrath received her B.A. in Milwaukee State Teachers College, where she studied under Gustave Moeller, Robert von Neumann, and Elsa Ulbricht. The following year, Grotenrath married Schomer Lichtner, a fellow painter. In 1935, she was employed by the WPA (Works Project Administration) Treasury Relief Art Project along with her husband. In 1945, she taught still life painting at the Layton School of Art. Nine years later, Grotenrath turned to printmaking, producing and selling her own silkscreens printed on drapery fabric at the Wisconsin State Fair. In 1961, she taught design at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and The Clearing in Door County.
Grotenrath’s style changed over the course of her artistic career. Her early work is marked with the American Regionalist style, as she was taught by Moeller, von Neumann, and Ulbricht. By the 1940s, she began to work with bright colors and in a stylistic manner influenced by Lichtner. Finally, by the 1950’s, Grotenrath seemed to have found her own unique style as she became interested in Japanese art and began to include more colorful, abstract elements to her prints and paintings.