Watercolor on paper
Dimensions: 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″
Title: “Tree of Life”
Lithograph – Edition of 450
Dimensions: 22″ x 30″
Original artist information backing card.
“TREE OF LIFE”
ABOUT THE ARTIST…
Arthur M. Kraft is a native of Kansas City, Missouri. After his graduation from Yale University, his art was utilized on covers and throughout the inside leaves of many Henry Luce publications. His first one man show, “Arthur M. Kraft, American Artist,” was launched in Paris by Jean Cocteau’s “Le Gallerie Palais Royale.” Since that time, Mr. Kraft has had exhibits in many of the major art centers, including the Jacques Seligmann Gallery in New York.
Arthur Kraft was director of the National Mural Society and is associated with the American Watercolor Society. He was chosen as a Fellow in the International Institute of Arts and Letters, and also claims a membership in the American Academy in Rome. In 1954, he was honored by the National Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) in the United States.
His sculptures, murals and mosaics grace buildings and galleries in Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, New York City, Manila, Japan—the world over and stand as monuments to his genius.
Original lithograph backing card.
The Tree of Life
Suggests four seasons….
Spring—the lurch of conception and birth, the liaisons of fecundity, the fullness; thereof Summer and the glimmer of growth and jocundity in the round.
The next to last lock of the canal, Autumn, is the glint of elder grace. Brittleness from burdens borne branches to Winter’s ice reflecting one’s own face.
The bird shatters the image to harken departure.
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.
Thank you, dear thing I cannot call you human, or animal, or rock, or leaf, or element; I can call you universe. You have created us as angels – we are your angels – you have equipped us with all that is necessary to understand, but somehow we do not understand. We have tried, memory is a blessed quality.
You have given us everything to make this whisper in time a perfect paradise.
Truly the forces for bad are as strong as are those for good.
It revolves around such a simple emotion known as love, and laughter, and whimsey; but the most important one of these is love.
– Arthur Kraft 1971
Star Magazine article by Georgia Kidd – December 2, 1979
Chic – Chic Piece
Sculpture in public places is a continuing pleasure to the passerby (“Sheep Piece” is a great example) and it’s one of the things that has marked the development sponsored by the JC Nichols Co. It always gives us good things to look at. It’s easy not to think of the Nichols Co. as a public service organization when it is so visibly a commercial enterprise, but it must be said that it builds what it builds with real style and an attention to quality that few other folks would even think of putting into shopping centers. That style and quality is a community service.
The Court of the Penguins is a fine example. For sheer chic, you can’t beat these shops – a little Gucci here, some Crabtree & Evelyn there. But while most of the best things in life aren’t free, as the shops show us, some of the best things in the Court of the Penguins are: the Penguins themselves and their environment, which doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy.
The Penguins are five-foot bronze reproductions of miniatures, which originally stood at three to four inches tall by the late Arthur Kraft, a local artist famous for, among other things, the mural at Westport Bank, the mosaic mural at the Children’s Library and the sculpture in the garden at Commerce Bank.
Kraft’s work had a whimsical side (he once did an elephant on its back for a shopping center), and he particularly liked penguins. Three identical sets of these penguins were made and are in private collections in this area.
For admiring the bronze birds and their surroundings, there are three mahogany benches given to the Plaza customers by the Plaza Executive Business Women’s Club. Also look closely at the tile that pictures a pyramid of penguins, with a nice touch of humor, Miller Nichols had the initials of members of the Nichols Co. board of directors put onto the penguins with the premier penguin perched on the pile marked, of course, M.N.
Title: Japanese Woman With Lotus Flower
Donated by the estate of Jerome and Jeanette Cohen
From the permanent collection of the Carter Art Center
3201 Southwest Trafficway, Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas Citian Magazine article – September 1965
Arthur Kraft Art At Home Savings
Paintings, drawings and sculpture by Arthur Kraft, Kansas City artist, make up a one-month showing now through September 17 open to the public in the Main Lobby of Home Savings Association, 10th and Grand. All of the works are privately owned and on special loan from the homes of admirers of this brilliant and versatile artist, some of whose art is on permanent display in the Louvre, the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence and leading galleries in the United States.
Kraft is probably best known locally for his colorful, imaginative mosaic mural for the Children’s Entrance to the new Public Library at 12th and McGee, and the large hanging mural in the new Missouri Public Services Building. His sculptures of a family group is at the Walnut Street entrance of Commerce Trust. He also designed the much-admired stained glass windows of the Overland Park Christian Church.
Among the works on display at Home Savings are fine examples of Kraft’s many-faceted ability. Dominating the exhibit for sheer size and rich coloration is “Camelot,” a mural-size oil painting, and his graceful “Swan,” sculptured in heavy brass wire. Also included are a pair of original paintings on musical themes from a series Kraft made for Philharmonic programs, and a delightful sketch for the Youth Symphony. Others reflect the wide range of Kraft’s interest and talents, from a tiny “Dog” and owlets in a nest to his highly individualistic handling of a classic theme, “Leda and the Swan.”
The show is open to the public from 7:30 to 5:30 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday, on the first floor of the Home Savings Building, 10th and Grand.
The Milwaukee Journal article by Emily Genauer – September 5, 1954
Super-Sculpture – A Detroit shopping center sets a surprising art style.
Twenty-five years ago a U.S. Customs official provoked a furor by ruling that modernist Constantin Brancusi’s “Bird In Space,” a piece of bronze vaguely resembling a five-foot-long cigar, was not art and so had to pay a tariff.
Since that famous ruling (subsequently reversed), what has happened to popular art taste in America constitutes a revolution. A good illustration of the surprising sophistication the U.S. public has developed is shown on this page. The huge Northland Shopping Center, outside Detroit, designed to serve 15 million people a year with the latest in marketing conveniences, might seem the last place in the world for modernist sculpture. But 13 examples of this most rarefied art form, mostly the bristling, praying-mantis barbed –wire type, have been strewn through the 161 acres of shops, gardens and plazas.
A 12-inch replica of a 24-foot-tall work has become a best selling souvenir item. A restaurant uses photographs of the sculpture on its menus. Shoppers identify various areas of the center with its art. “Meet me at the Peacock Terrace,” they say. (The peacock, by Arthur Kraft, is a network of bronze rods welded together with an acetylene torch.)
The art was the idea of architect Victor Gruen. He says the public’s warm response is due to the fact that the sculpture injects “an emotion element” into the gigantic $20,000.000 project. The one condition Gruen laid on the six artists, chiefly of the Midwest, commissioned to execute models for the project, was that their work be light and airy. He needed pieces, he told them, that would be modern, “but fun to look at.”
His orders have been followed to the letter. Not even Gruen could have foreseen the trouble mothers would have dragging children off a big stone bear by Marshall Fredericks (see cover). Chances are even that the crusty customs official of 1929 would enjoy this art.