Jerome Klapka in his studio, with Over the Top in the background, from an undated photograph, M. Christine Schwartz Collection.

Jerome Klapka 1887–1965

Jerome Jaroslav Klapka was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and was living in Chicago by 1902, when he enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Saturday children’s class. Klapka studied at the Art Institute intermittently in the following years, as well as at the American Academy of Art. His most important instructors were portraitists Antonin Sterba and Wellington Reynolds. Klapka apparently devoted the early part of his career to commercial and advertising art. After working in Detroit from 1929 to 1931, he returned to the Chicago area, living in west-suburban Oak Park and then in nearby Berwyn until 1940.

Klapka was most visible as a fine artist in Chicago during the 1930s, when he participated twice in the Art Institute’s annual “Chicago and Vicinity” exhibition and once in its yearly American artists’ show. He also was active in such local organizations as the Bohemian Art Club, the Chicago Galleries Association, the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors (of which he served as director in 1942), and the All-Illinois Society of Fine Arts; the latter awarded him first prize at its 1938 annual exhibition. That year the Society for Sanity in Art selected two paintings by Klapka for its exhibition at the Chicago Galleries Association. Klapka was president of the Guild of Free-Lance Artists in 1940–1941. In 1936 he gave private painting instruction in his studio in the Tree Studios building on East Ohio Street.

Klapka painted figural works and landscapes in oils and in watercolors. His portraits included one of his son as a U.S. Army Air Corps flight instructor; exhibited in the All-Illinois Society of the Fine Arts’ annual show of 1942, the portrait was reproduced in the Chicago Tribune as part of its coverage of this wartime art event. By that date the artist had returned to Detroit. He moved to Los Angeles in 1948 and spent his final fifteen years in Mill Valley, California, summering in Cary, Illinois.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Notes for readers

Works by Jerome Klapka