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Paul S. Kramer (1919 - 2012)

Paul Kramer was born in 1919 in Sheyenne, North Dakota, the eighth of 10 children.  His father was a farmer raised in the Mennonite tradition, and Paul moved with his family to Minnesota when he was a young boy. He worked on the family's farm in South St. Paul, where they grew vegetables, and he later helped on a dairy farm near Hugo.

However, Kramer decided early on that farming wasn’t for him. Instead he turned to art, and it sustained him for decades as a painter, a gallery director, a teacher to scores of aspiring artists, and eventually, as one of the most respected Minnesota artists of the 20th century.

After spending time in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, Kramer served in the military in some of the most dangerous European theaters during World War II.  After the war, he took an art class in France and then returned to St. Paul, where he was married in 1946.  After taking local art classes, Kramer was encouraged by his wife, Mary, and his teacher, the renowned Minnesota painter Clement Haupers, to use the GI Bill and study at the nationally recognized Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

In 1956, he traveled with his family to Spain, returning to St. Paul a year later. In 1969, the family traveled to Scotland for a year and later toured the continent in a Volkswagen van.  He was also an entrepreneur who, with his wife, started an art supply store, frame shop and art gallery in St. Paul in the 1960s.

Kramer liked to paint in his studio in St. Paul, where he would immerse himself in his work while listening to classical music, yet he always made it home for dinner with his family.  He painted still lifes as well as street scenes in St. Paul and depictions of life in small towns along the Mississippi River.

For years, Kramer directed the fine arts department at the Minnesota State Fair and was a teacher and exhibitions director at St. Paul Gallery and School of Art, which later became the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

He was known for his gentle, quiet manner, his sense of humor and his curiosity, as well as a deep commitment to the craft of painting.  Just about every facet of art activity in the Twin Cities he was engaged in," said Julie L'Enfant, an art history scholar at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul and author of an Afton Press book about Kramer. "He was a realist painter, although his work has dreamlike qualities and very personal qualities that make it his own. ... He told me he would see something real, but when he started to paint, other images would come in, making it sort of dreamlike."

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