Klepper, Frank Earl (1890–1952)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 13, 2019

Frank Earl Klepper, artist and teacher, son of John B. and Mary (Cunningham) Klepper, was born on May 3, 1890, in Plano, Texas. From the age of fourteen he desired to become an artist. His formal training was delayed, however, by financial problems that beset his family, although he did take some private instruction. In 1914, at the age of twenty-four, he left Plano to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. After a year his training was once again interrupted when, in 1917, he enlisted in the army. During World War I he served in the camouflage section of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division in France. After the war he studied art at the American Art Training Center in Paris with Harry Lachman.

Klepper returned to Texas in 1920 and opened an art studio in McKinney. His winning of the Arthur A. Everts medal for landscape painting at the Texas Artists Exhibition in 1920 helped establish his reputation. In 1927 he left McKinney to become art director of the Southwestern School of Fine Arts in Dallas. Klepper's success enabled him to devote 1928 to a study of the art of France and Belgium and to work with George Elmer Browne of New York. He also spent time at Taos, New Mexico. In 1929 he began teaching evening classes in etching, and later ceramics, for the Dallas public school system. He was visiting art director of Kidd-Key College in Sherman in 1931, but after this appointment he returned to Dallas, where he continued to teach for over twenty years.

During his career Klepper moved from his impressionistic landscape style to a concentration on "Deep South" pictures and to experiments with symbolic painting. His increased skill in lithography and etching won him the Southern States Art League first prize for bookplate design in 1932. Yet he remained best known for his landscapes and was selected to exhibit his work at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. He also received commissions from the Federal Arts Project to paint murals for the McKinney post office and Prairie View College (now Prairie View A&M University). During World War II he taught in the occupational therapy department at Ashburn General Hospital in McKinney. By 1950 a number of Klepper's works were in permanent collections, including a wildflower study, Texas Plumes, in Paris; Texas Shrine (the Alamo) at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (later the Dallas Museum of Art); and Liendo, a painting of the sculptor Elisabet Ney's home near Hempstead, now at the Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin.

Klepper was a member of the Southern States Art League, the New Orleans Art Society, the Texas Art Association, and the American Artists Professional League. He died of a heart attack on June 4, 1952, and was buried with First Christian Church rites in McKinney. He was never married. He left his valuable collection of Oriental porcelain and Chinese treasures to the Memorial Library in McKinney.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). Dallas Morning News, June 5, 1952. Esse Forrester-O'Brien, Art and Artists of Texas (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, A History of Collin County (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1958).

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Art and Architecture
  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David Minor, “Klepper, Frank Earl,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/klepper-frank-earl.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 13, 2019

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