Arthur M. Kraft…working to end
The Kansas City Times obituary – September 29, 1977
Kansas City Artist, Arthur Kraft, Dies
Arthur M. Kraft, Kansas City artist, died yesterday at the Veterans Hospital in Topeka.
Kraft 55, was born in Kansas City and had lived here most of his life except for a short period in New York and World War II service with the Army Air Forces.
A painter and a sculptor in clay and metal, Kraft had shown his work in London, Paris and Rome and in numerous exhibitions here and in other cities in this country. He was best known here for such works as the mosaic at the entrance to the Children’s Library at the Kansas City Public Library and the bronze fountain in the arcade at the Commerce Towers but he left his mark through such creations as a 10-ton laughing elephant at a Detroit shopping center, penguins at a center in Indianapolis and a trio of walruses for a Cleveland center.
Friends described him as an overly generous man, one who loved to play practical jokes on people and to help others, a man who kept his sense of humor even through a long hospital treatment for cancer. Kraft had continued working despite his illness, completing a mural for the hospital waiting room before he died.
Kraft had struggled in recent years with health problems friends said were triggered by injuries suffered in an assault in 1959.
In 1946 Kraft won the Audubon Artist Society national painting award for a painting, “New York as Seen by a Casual Observer Through My Great Aunt Jennifer’s Ouija Board.” In 1948 he had a 1-man show of paintings at the Seligmann Gallery in New York, where critics were generous in praise, referring to his “uncanny talent.” In 1954 he was named by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in America.
The late Thomas Hart Benton is reported to have said of Kraft’s early work: “He has better technique than I do if he’d only work harder at it.”
Kraft began painting when he borrowed a friend’s watercolor set at the age of five —without asking. When he was 13 he sold about 200 decorated matchboxes and several oil portraits at the Plaza Art Fair. The portraits showed such maturity that officials questioned whether the boy had done them.
His first formal training in art came in Saturday morning classes at the Nelson Gallery of Art. He graduated from Southwest High School and attended the Kansas City Art Institute for a semester, then entered the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, where he became art editor of the Yale Record. He joined the Army in 1943 and returned to Yale in 1946 to finish his degree.
Kraft’s loose relationship with money was almost legend. He went from payed his rent with a painting one month to comparative wealth the next upon being commissioned to do a mural or sculpture.
“I just want to be left alone to create,” he once said, “I don’t have any sense of money.” On another occasion when a new acquaintance kept talking about money, Kraft said: “My dear sir, you should refrain from making noises like an IBM machine.”
Although he was not a joiner his interest in helping others surfaced in volunteer work for the Kansas City Philharmonic and the United Cerebral Palsy campaign and he donated paintings to the annual auction of KCPT-TV, Channel 19.
He leaves his mother, Mrs. Mildred Kraft, and a brother, George Kraft, both of Horseshoe Bend, Ark., and two half sisters, Mrs. Annette Luyben, 9625 High Drive, Leawood, and Miss Mary Josephine Kraft.