Born in Reading, Ohio, Carl Krafft became a prolific regionalist painter of Midwestern subjects, primarily impressionist landscapes and some seascapes. He also did some genre works including men at work at river-boat landings.
Kraftt had his studio in Oak Park, Illinois and from there traveled to the surrounding countryside as well as to Brown County, Indiana, and the Ozarks of south-central Missouri. In the Ozarks, he and Rudolph Ingerle, who first visited the mountainous region in 1912, created a major art colony called the Society of Ozark Painters. Painters were attracted there because they were enchanted by the dramatic landscape of the region and “the delicate color of its hazy atmosphere”. The appeal of the Ozarks as a sanctuary increased with the turmoil of World War I, and many of the artists focused on scenes that contrasted with the ugliness of war. Kraftt painted there for more than two decades and referred to the region as his “cathedral of nature”. (Kennedy 128)
Kraftt’s first painting of the Ozarks that brought him attention was The Charms of the Ozarks. It was in the 1916 annual exhibition of the Art Institute and awarded a $500. prize. Representatives of the Municipal Art League, purchased the work, which was in keeping with their dedication to civic beautifucation. This recognition was a deciding factor in Kraftt’s decision to devote himself to full-time painting.
The Hudson River Valley of New York state was another region of interest, and he visited there in 1925.
Kraftt’s paintings became very popular and were copied and sold as originals during the Depression. To combat this plagiarism, he put his thumb print on many of his works. The painting of Krafft was often compared to New Hope Impressionist painter, Daniel Garber. However, Kraftt later disavowed ties to specific places such as the Ozarks because “he sought a more universal than regional following.” (Illinois Historical Project). Underscoring the appeal of his work beyond the Midwest, Krafft exhibited and sold his work in New York City and other art centers between 1912 and 1938.
Krafft was born in Reading, Ohio and moved to Chicago in the early 1900s. HIs father was a minister whose ancestor was Adam Kraftt, a sixteenth-century German sculptor. Kraftt first worked in Chicago as a commercial designer and began formal studies of art in 1903 and 1904 with evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1910 to 1913, he took daytime classes there from Harry Walcott and Edward Vysekal. From 1924 to 1925, he again studied at the Institute, and his teacher was Leon Kroll.
He became close friends and painting companions with Kroll and Eugene Savage and later said that those two artists “had given him ‘more sound guidance and inspiration’ than he had received from any other source’ ” (Illinois Historical Project). Krafft also studied at the Chicago Fine Arts Academy.
Exhibition venues included the Palette and Chisel Club, Robert Vose Gallery in Boston, National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Museum, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Kraftt was a member and founder in 1914 of the Society of Ozark Painters, which he served as President in 1915. He was founder of the Municipal Art League in Springfield, Missouri; and founder of the Oak Park Art League and League President from 1921 to 1922.
Illinois Historical Project, www.illinoisart.org/index.html
Elizabeth Kennedy, “Chicago Modern, 1893-1945”
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art