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Born Alice Geneva Glasier, Gene Kloss became one of the foremost print makers in American art, although she also did oil and watercolor paintings. Kloss spent her early years in Oakland, California, and attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she was encouraged in intaglio printmaking. She established her reputation on the west coast in the 20’s and 30’s with several one-woman shows in San Francisco and elsewhere. Her reputation spread across the nation through her participation in highly successful group shows. A true Westerner, however, the artist never went east of the Mississippi River.
In 1925, she married Phillip Kloss, a poet and composer, and on their honeymoon they visited Taos, New Mexico and cemented a portable printing press to a rock near their campsite. Twenty years later, they built a home there, and Kloss became known as a print maker of local scenes. During the Depression, she worked for the Public Works Art Project in the easel division that featured northern New Mexico, and her prints were distributed in public schools all over the state.
During her life, Kloss executed over 600 copperplate etchings of California and the Southwest. Each plate Kloss did had an edition of up to 225 prints. She pulled every print herself, until the 1970’s, when she got a motorized press. She developed a technique in etching which she called “painting,” which involved applying acid directly on the plate with fine Japanese brushes or pencils. This developed the quality for which her work was known: subtle, painted tones, grades of dark, and bright halos of white.
Kloss was called “one of the most sensitive and sympathetic interpreters of the Southwest.” Despite their small size, her etchings capture quite convincingly the feeling of vast space associated with New Mexico’s mountains. Kloss never sketched or used a camera to record the images she saw. Instead, she committed the feeling and the event to her mind as a pattern, such as music. As she said, “There has always been a close alliance between my art and music.”
Honors accorded her include placement of her work in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Library of Congress, the Carnegie Institute, the Smithsonian Institute and the San Francisco Art Museum. Kloss was also a member of the National Academy of Design. Of her work, Art News once wrote, “Gene Kloss is one of our most sensitive and sympathetic interpreters of the Southwest.” One critic called her a “landscape mythic,” another a “portrait psychologist,” but perhaps the highest praise came from a Taos Indian who said, upon looking at an etching Kloss did of his home, “Yes, that is the way it was that night at our house.”