Carl Rudolph Krafft
Oak Park, IL
Chicago Art Institute
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Born in Reading, Ohio August 23 1884, Carl Krafft was the son of Carl F. L. Krafft, a travelling Evangelical Lutheran Minister. Carl Krafft Sr. was born in Bavaria and was a descendant of Adam Krafft, a sixteenth century sculptor whose work can still be found around the old town of Nuremberg.
The Krafft family moved around a good deal. After spending time in Missouri, Kansas, Ohio and Indiana, the family eventually settled in the south side of Chicago. Some of Carl’s brothers entered into the the Lutheran Ministry. While Carl, himself, had some doubts about the teachings, he was still willing to consider the Lutheran Church as a life for himself. He entered Elmhurst College. Krafft, who was a talented organist considered music as a profession but later found his truest calling to be Art. A wonderful quote that sums up this period of his life is taken from the Chicago Daily News. C.J. Bulliet wrote, “While he didn’t become a practicing preacher his paintings are not in variance with his training. Most of the critics have felt his attitude toward nature to be ‘religious,’ the quiet, sentimental reverence of a working preacher in average American surroundings.”
Married in 1907 to Charlotte (Lottie) Lau, Carl for many years struggled financially to make it. He did commercial artwork in his early career in Chicago and studied evenings and then days at the Chicago Art Institute. It wasn’t until the early 1920’s with the success of a painting “Banks of the Gaconade” that allowed him to support his family and move out under the domineering thumb of his in-laws. Carl moved his family to Oak Park where he transformed the attic into his working studio. It was during the 20’s and 30’s that he produced some of his best work and with the help of his benefactor Mr. Anton Nelson (a musical instrument manufacturer) that Krafft became a highly productive artist.
He maintained his studio in Oak Park and traveled to Brown County, IN to paint. But Krafft is also strongly associated with the Ozarks where he first visited in 1912 and continued to visit and paint for the majority of his life. Krafft founded the Society of Ozark Painters in Springfield, MO in 1914 with fellow artists Rudolph Ingerle. Not only did he produce a great deal of art at this time, but he also established the Austin, Oak Park, and River Forest Art League in 1921, a suburban art league that is still a thriving community.
Carl Krafft was greatly influenced by his unique upbringing and early adulthood. It was this time that shaped him into the artist that is revered today. He went on to teach at the Chicago Art Institute, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, various art leagues and private classes.
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