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 Charles Merrick (Chilli) Capps  (1898 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: Kansas/Illinois      Known for: printmaking, townscape, landscape and architecture

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BIOGRAPHY for Charles Capps
Facts/Data
Birth
1898 (Jacksonville, Illinois)
 
Death
1981 (Wichita, Kansas)

Lived/Active
Kansas/Illinois

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printmaking, townscape, landscape and architecture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A printmaker especially known for subtle tonal variations in aquatints, Charles Capps, whose friends called him "Chili", did many images of Midwestern scenes and Southwestern subjects as well as commercial art endeavors.  He was especially taken with the adobe architecture of Taos and Santa Fe.  He created his own plates, and turning out editions of about 100, signed and numbered each one in pencil.  In total, he completed about 80 prints, of which half are aquatints, a third etchings and drypoints and the others blockprints and lithographs.

Noted for his dry sense of humor, he had a sign over his studio door: "Phooey to the Louvre".  One of his friends said that Capps "could puncture a balloon of self-important pomposity."

An active member of the Prairie Print Makers of Kansas, he served as its President for twenty-three years.  He was also active in the Society of American Etchers, the Chicago Society of Etchers, Philadelphia Society of Etchers, Northwest Printmakers and Printmakers Society of California.

Capps was born in Jacksonville, Illinois where his father was a clothing manufacturer, and Capps worked in the mills during summer vacations.  He went to Illionois College in Jacksonville, graduating in 1920 and then attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Returning to Jacksonville, he married Anna Palmer and the couple moved to Wichita to work for Western Lithograph.  Shortly after, he returned to Illinois, taking an advertising job in Springfield.  Then they moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a free-lance advertising artist until 1925, when he returned to Wichita and a promotion at Western Lithograph.  Soon he began experimenting with woodcuts, creating a series of award-winning bookplates, and from 1931, did etchings.  The quality of his prints earned him membership in professional printmakers' organizations including the Chicago Society of Etchers, where the committee upon seeing his work, burst into applause.  Also friendship and classes with Doel Reed, professor of art at Oklahoma State University, and master of aquatints, had a profound effect on Capps' career, which was memorialized just before his death with a joint retrospective with Clarence Hotvedt and Lloyd Foltz sponsored by the Wichita Art Association.

Capps died July 17, 1981.


Source:
Barbara Thompson O'Neill and George C. Foreman, "Charles M. Capps", The Prairie Print Makers, pp. 31-35
Courtesy, Denise Morris
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
41 Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1930; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1933; National Museum, Stockholm; Philbrook Art Center; Carnegie Institute; Joslyn Art Museum; Kansas Free Fair, 1939; 7th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1931; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1931; 8th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1932; 9th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1933; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1934; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1935; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1937; 14th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1938; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1938; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1939; World's Fair, 1939; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1940; Philbrook 1st Annual, 1940; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1941
Memberships:
Charter Member of Prairie Print Makers; Chicago Society of Etchers; Washington Water Color Club; California Print Makers; Philadelphia Society of Etchers; Wichita Art Guild.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Jacksonville, IL, Sept. 14, 1898; died Wichita, July 17, 1981. Etcher. Lithographer. Dry point. Aquatint. Graduated from Illinois College in 1920, then attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for 2 years, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia School of Art. Moved to Wichita in 1925 to work at Western Lithograph Co. and with C. A. Seward.

Became the production manager at McCormick Armstrong in 1933 and worked there until retirement in 1966. Taught at the Wichita Art Association.

Created the Prairie Print Makers gift print in 1938 and 1965 and the gift print for the Print Makers Society of California in 1951.
Source:
AWARDS:
Purchase Prize, Northwest Print Makers, Seattle, 1930; honorable mention, 5th Annual American Block prints, Philadelphia; 2nd prize, Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1935, 1st prize, Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1937; 1st prize, Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1940; Library of Congress, 1941, 1948; Reid Award, 1950.

COLLECTIONS:
Topeka Public Library; Amon Carter Museum; Library of Congress; Philbrook Art Center; Wichita Art Museum; Ulrich Museum; and others.

MEMBERSHIPS:
Charter Member of Prairie Print Makers; Chicago Society of Etchers; Washington Water Color Club; California Print Makers; Philadelphia Society of Etchers; Wichita Art Guild.

SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1, 6, 7; Festival of Kansas Arts and Crafts. Catalog: Arts and Crafts of Kansas: an Exhibition held in Lawrence, Feb. 18-22, 1948 in the Community Building. Lawrence: World Co., 1948 (il); AA27; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1, 2, 3, 4; Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; Cone, Mary Ellen. The Status of Kansas Literature and Art. Typed manuscript, 1939.; Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974. Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition (Kansas City: Kansas City Art Institute, 1920-1942 Mines, Cynthia. For the Sake of Art: The Story of an Art Movement in Kansas. s.l. Mines, 1979.) 1930-31, 1933-35, 1937-41; Sandzén archives; Family Search. Version 2.5.0. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2002. www.FamilySearch.org accessed July 14, 2006; Shaull, Warren L, and Edwin E. Elliott. Charles M. Capps, Master Printmaker: A Catalog Raisonné (Dodge City, KS: Gall and Shaull, 1994); TPL
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery:
Charles M. Capps
(1898-1981)

Charles M. Capps, or “Chilli,” as his friends knew him, was born, September 14, 1898, in Jacksonville, Illinois -- a member of a family of woolen mills fame. He spent his summers working in the mills where he learned that neither warp nor woof alone composed the design before him on the loom, but that it took the skillful direction of the crossing threads to fashion the fabric he wove.

Capps graduated from Illinois College and also from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. After Chicago, he continued his art education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Early in his professional career Capps moved, with his wife to Wichita, where he became associated with the Western Lithography Company.

Capps produced plate prints - primarily drypoints and aquatints. Highly intelligent with a fine sense of humor, Capps admirably took things as he found them and discovered truths that others would miss.

He was also a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers Society.

He died July 17, 1981.

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