Floethe found early success in New York City as an industrial designer and book illustrator and by the mid-1930s, his work was internationally known. From 1936-39 he was administrator and art director of the New York City poster division of the WPA art projects. From 1942-43 he was art director of the New York War Service.
During his long, successful career as a book illustrator, he designed and/or illustrated nearly 100 books — mostly for children. He twice won the limited Editions Club International Contest for best illustrated books. Many of his books were included by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in their choice for the Fifty Books of the year. He also illustrated 23 children’s books written by his wife, Louise Lee Floethe. He is listed in “Who’s Who in American Art” and “Mallett’s Index of Artists”. Floethe was an instructor of commercial design at Cooper Union, New York City and of illustration at the Ringling School of Art, Sarasota.
Floethe’s watercolors and prints are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the St Louis and Philadelphia Museums, the Klingspor Museum in Offenbach, Germany, the Spencer Collection, the Kerlan Collection of the University of Minnesota, the University of Oregon, the University of South Florida, and in many private collections.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Richard Floethe created a number of watercolors, oil paintings and silkscreen prints that celebrate the beauty and unique environment of the west coast of Florida, where he lived, and the Western and Southwestern United States, where he often visited. These gaily colored, often whimsical works were shown in one-person shows at the Frank J. Oehlschlaeger Galleries and Madison-Noble Gallery in Sarasota.