Watercolor on paper
Dimensions: 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″
In the early 1960’s Arthur Kraft was commissioned to design the much-admired stained glass windows for the Overland Park Christian Church at 7600 W 75th St, Overland Park, Kansas.
He created a total of thirteen beautiful stained glass windows for the church that are still in use and on display today.
Kansas City Jackson County Star article by D.P. Breckenridge – June 29, 1983
Ambassador’s Walls Reveal a Mural, a Mystery
Surprise! When the vinyl in the lobby came off, the workmen saw a mural of Downtown Kansas City and the Missouri River – or rather, those scenes as they were decades ago, before the painting was covered and forgotten.
Hotel co-owner Ralph Zarr examined the mural and suspected he had stumbled onto a work by the late Arthur Kraft, a Kansas City painter and sculptor. By the time Mr. Zarr returned to the hotel June 20, four days after the discovery, his research had convinced him he had a Kraft work on his hands.
Surprise! It wasn’t there any longer.
Mr. Zarr got to the hotel at 8 a.m. that day, but the workmen had gotten there earlier. Continuing their renovation, they had covered the mural with plasterboard.
The story has a happy ending: Mr. Zarr has hired Duard Marshall, an artist who was a longtime friend of Mr. Kraft, to uncover the painting again and restore it. Mr. Marshall said last week that he has definitely identified the mural as a Kraft, and it should soon be as good as new.
But the two men are keeping their fingers crossed. If the saga of this mural has taken some unexpected twists, that would be nothing unusual for Mr. Kraft, who was one of Kansas City’s most colorful and flamboyant artists before he died in 1977.
Mr. Zarr and Mr. Marshall have described him as “extremely likeable,” a “great talent,” a “hell of an artist.” He also has been described, affectionately, as “eccentric – very eccentric.”
And if anyone ever fit the stereotype of a head-in-the-clouds artist, Mr. Kraft was the man.
Mr. Kraft may not have been an artist of international stature, but finding a long-forgotten work of his “would be significant for Kansas City,” said John W. Lottes, president of the Kansas City Art Institute.
“He did a lot of work here, and he was loved by a lot of people,” Mr. Lottes said. “During a period of years when the visual arts here did not get much attention, Arthur, because of his guts and aggressiveness, kept the arts visible.”
Even if Mr. Kraft’s friends were to forget him – which is not likely, considering the stories they still tell – his work remains in public view. For example, the mosaic at the entrance of the Children’s Library at the Kansas City Public Library Downtown is a Kraft.
Perhaps it was appropriate that the hotel mural was discovered in a comedy of errors, because that apparently is how it was painted and then lost.
Mr. Zarr said Mr. Kraft probably painted the mural “at a time when he was down on his luck and needed money.”
“An argument ensued over how much he should be paid,” Mr. Zarr surmised, “and he refused to sign the durn thing.”
Mr. Marshall chuckled, “It’s kind of like a detective story, isn’t it?”
One of Peter Sellers’ “Pink Panther” comedies, perhaps. And a Kansas City artist who sculpted playful penguins for shopping centers and once had a lion for a house guest is having the last laugh.
Arthur Kraft Ambassador mural in 2012
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.
Skylines Magazine – December 1960
Board Of Education, Kansas City, Missouri
Public Library and Administration Building
12th and Oak
Kansas City Missouri
ARCHITECT: Tanner & Associates
FOR: Installation of Mural Tile Sections At Children’s Library Entrance.
CRAFTSMAN: Walter Goosman
EMPLOYER: Slater Tile & Mantel Company
ARTIST: Arthur M. Kraft
The Artist’s Conception of His Mosaic Design…
“My chief approach was to create a colorful lure that would attract the light hearts of children. After due consideration it became apparent that I had to deal with all the elements in the animal world that children know. I very carefully selected the most obvious animals which would be easily recognizable in an abstract form. This gave me the freedom of mobility to design the shapes that would indicate movement from left to right, which is as you know, a habit developed in children when they learn to read English. It was also necessary to create a rythmatic pattern of verticality to echo the vertical lines in the building itself as well as the Court House building in the background, hence the use of the red and white stripe running throughout the entire mosaic. This circus tent background is relieved with three scallops to add to the movement and put the central figure of the harlequin on the horse in dead center of the design.“
“The two apertures in the tent are an invitation to the child to enter into the fanciful land of an enchanted forest where all things are possible, as they are in the imagination of all children.”
– Arthur M. Kraft
Article from the Kansas City Star – April 8, 1989
Arthur Kraft’s Mural
Right between the kangaroo’s face and the horse’s tail, the mosaic on the outside wall of the Children’s Library is cracked from sidewalk to ceiling. A little farther down the circus scene, another large crack reaches from bottom nearly to the top.
These didn’t happen yesterday. They will get worse. They need to be corrected immediately.
The lively mosaic by the late Arthur M. Kraft once was a thing of beauty. It was something that made children feel at home and gave library patrons pride. The city pointed to it as representative of Kraft’s talent as a “superb colorist.” It is art on Kansas City’s streets. Letting the small chips loosen and fall and the piece of art decay like a discarded political signboard is an insult to Kraft’s memory and to the people of Kansas City.
It’s wasteful. It is also a familiar attitude showing a lack of care about much property in the district. Tight budgets are one excuse. But they’re not always the reason.
It’s reported that a school employee recently joked that the best solution to the mosaic problem is to paint it over. Perhaps it is, if the alternative is to let it crumble and fall in front of everyone.
This is also symbolic of the deferred maintenance the Kansas City School District has practiced on buildings it owns. In recent years, property has been treated like old clunker cars: Nothing is done as long as it runs, no matter how poorly.
The mosaic isn’t the only major item that needs upkeep. The floor in the old Missouri Valley Room is so warped the boards are popping up like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t fit. Apparently a roof leak lets water run under the room or condense so that the lovely hardwood floor is systematically coming apart.
Moreover, the large room, which could be a superb public meeting area, is empty and unused.
It is wrong to let the building continue to run down. Maybe if the district spends a little now, it won’t have to spend a lot in a few years.
One of Arthur Kraft’s best known works in the Kansas City area is the “Court of the Penguins” Fountain at 525 Nichols Road on the Country Club Plaza.
The bronze penguin sculptures were cast posthumously in 1979 and dedicated on October 10, 1979.
The sculpture includes two free-standing pedestal fountains each approximately five feet tall on either side of the penguin grouping. There are three bronze penguins each approximately five feet tall, in varying positions of outstretched wings, on the east, west and south of a Spanish ‘clover-leaf’ area of paved brick.
The basins of each fountain are quatrefoil in shape and constructed of red stone. Each fountain has two basins, an upper and lower, which flow into one another. Three griffins, placed back-to-back, support the lower, larger basin. Figures of dolphins are featured between the griffins.
This sculpture is very similar to Arthur Kraft’s other penguin sculpture that he originally created in 1960 for the Glendale Shopping Center in Indianapolis, Indiana and is still on display at the Glendale Town Center Library entrance.