Printmakers You Should Know: Gene Kloss

In last month's installment of Printmakers You Should Know, we focused on an artist who excelled in relief printmaking, Gustave Baumann. Today, we'll consider an intaglio master, Gene Kloss (1903-1996).

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Gene Kloss using a press, ca. 1940. Image courtesy of
A Californian by origin, Kloss studied art at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California School of Fine Arts. She began her etching adventures in her mother's kitchen, after learning about the process in school. She first visited Taos in the 1920s during her honeymoon with husband Phillips Kloss. They happened to bring along her 60-lb. etching press, which was subsequently cemented to a tree stump at their campsite. If that doesn't demonstrate commitment to a medium, I don't know what does.

The couple would go back to Taos every summer, eventually settling there permanently in 1945. Having access to a printing press, let alone having one of your own, was rare in Taos at this time (remember, it was quite rural in the early 20th century), so Kloss was definitely at an advantage when it came to printmaking. During the Depression, she worked for the WPA, as the small scale of her prints made them an affordable art form.
Kloss is best known for her intaglio prints of Pueblo life, New Mexico landscapes, and Penitentes. She would apply acid directly to the exposed plate with a brush, giving her works a distinctly painterly appearance rich with deeply saturated values and luminous highlights. Here are a few of her pieces (n.b. not all of these are in the RMAC collection; you can check out some of our stuff here):

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Eve of the Green Corn Ceremony, Domingo Pueblo, 1934, drypoint and aquatint. Image courtesy of
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Rain Dance Beginning at Old Tamaya, ca. 1956, drypoint and aquatint. Image courtesy of
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Monument to Space, 1948, drypoint and aquatint. Image courtesy of
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Penitente Easter, 1979, etching, drypoint, and aquatint. Image courtesy of
In addition to printmaking, Kloss painted in oil and watercolor. Here's an example:

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Coast at Carmel, watercolor. Image courtesy of

Today Kloss is regarded as a significant American printmaker, but she also had the good fortune of being recognized and respected during her own lifetime, which doesn't always happen. Over the course of her long career, she created over 600 prints.

Not bad for someone whose etching adventures began in her mother's kitchen.


Want to learn more? Here are some sites for you:

For those of you who prefer books:

And of course, you can check out some of the RMAC's holdings of Gene Kloss here.