The following information was submitted in November of 2006 by Edward Bentley:
Elton George Krafft (1914 – 2001)
Krafft was born January 15, 1914, in Elkhart, Indiana, and received his artistic training at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee he ran his own advertising studio for a number of years. He served with the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II in the South Pacific. He had a one-man show of his war work at the Pentagon after his return from the Pacific. On September 10, 1945, he married Olga Kucera, whom he met at the Layton School of Art.
He joined Cream City Outdoor Advertising Co., Milwaukee (which became Naegele, Hanson, and Foster & Kleiser Outdoor Advertising Co.) as Art Director. He did hand-drawn artwork-work illustrations for over 40 years, pioneering the use of three-dimensional objects on billboards, and was considered a leader in the field. His graphic art, which advertised major local firms, included the “Fritzie” caricature for Schlitz Brewing Co. and also the Usinger Sausage elves. Retiring in 1985, he stated: “With retirement, I am free to paint where, when and whatever I choose.”
A prolific painter, the Lake Geneva artist spent most of his 87 years creating impressionist style paintings. Paintings covering the walls of his studio and gallery reflect the pure joy that he found in the Wisconsin landscape. Krafft served as President of the Milwaukee Men’s Sketch Club. He often led groups to paint outdoors in northern Wisconsin in winter; planting their easels in snow banks and painting until they were so cold their fingers would not work. When he moved to Lake Geneva in 1971, he and Olga founded a similar group who took to the fields to sketch and paint in summer, painting still life setups indoors in winter.
He demonstrated oil painting before the League of Milwaukee Artists, Allis Chalmers Art Association, Harvard and the Illinois Art Society. He was an active member of the Geneva Lake Art Association, Paletteers, Walworth County Arts Council, Racine Arts Council and the Hoosier Salon of Indianapolis. Krafft was a well-known figure for decades on the art fair circuit. His work has been widely shown, reaping hundreds of awards throughout the Midwest and nationally, with some exhibited works going on tour. He was represented by many fine galleries and accepted in major juried and invitational shows, including the Hoosier Salon of Fine Arts, Chicago Art Institute, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Charles Allis and Milwaukee Art Center.
A gentle, sensitive and kind man, he was an inventive colorist and daring manipulator of paint and pictorial space, boldly manipulating strokes of paint with palette knife and paintbrush for the sake of painting – for the sheet pleasure of recording his perceptions of the visible world with extraordinary colors and resulting shapes. He enjoyed painting through the changing seasons and saw beauty in the darkest, gloomiest weather. “You discover things by painting,” he once said. “It’s been a lifetime of discovery for my own self. Every time you put something down on canvas something happens to something else. If it doesn’t, the painting’s dead. A painting that is alive grows.” His total commitment to art helped him through challenges of leukemia, colon cancer, melanoma, Hodgkin’s disease, chemotherapy, hip surgery, Parkinson's Disorder, and nearly total loss of eyesight, continuing to paint daily.
Elton George Kraft died in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, on November 23, 2001.
Biographical information excerpted from the artist’s obituary, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11-27-01.
Additional information available: "Elton Krafft: Lasting Impressions” by Linda Godfrey Meet, At The Lake, Geneva Lakes Area Magazine, Winter 2000;
“Death of painter Krafft leaves empty canvas,” by James Auer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 12, 2001.