He was a 19th century realist during [the 20th century,] a period of great artistic experimentation ”

Allan Kramer 1918
Allan Kramer 1918

Allan Edgar Kramer, named after after the poet Edgar Allan Poe, was born April 29, 1903 in Winigan, Missouri. His parents, were Alice (Melrose Crees) and John Andrew Kramer, a harness maker. Allan learned his father’s trade, but showed an interest in art from an early age. Harness making was a profession which disappeared rapidly after the introduction of the automobile, so Allan, along with most of his five brothers turned their leather working skills to shoe repair.

In the late 1920’s Allan’s own family made the trip from California to Chicago so that he could attend the Chicago Art Institute. Allan was greatly influenced by the work of painter John Singer Sargent, whom he sought to emulate in his early painting. In time, he developed his own style, though it remained essentially representational. Although he did many still lives and landscapes, his central interest was always portraiture.

During the Great Depression, Mr. Kramer accepted a franchise to operate a shoe repair store in Yosemite National Park.

The Kramer family 1946
From left to right: Allan Kramer, his wife Marion, his daughter Lenore, Martha (Lloyd’s wife), and son Lloyd Kramer

Then in the 1940’s Allan moved his family to the Bay Area. Arthur Millier, a Los Angeles art critic, wrote of Mr. Kramer’s work at that time: “Kramer’s work augurs a successful career for the artist.” He was, however, unable to make a living out of his artistry and continued to sustain himself and his family over the years by repairing shoes. “He was a 19th century realist during a period of great artistic experimentation,” wrote his son, Lloyd Kramer.

Despite that fact, Allan Edgar Kramer’s paintings now hang in many homes in America and Europe. He had exhibited mainly in California art galleries, the highlight being a showing at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Mr. Kramer’s portrait of former Governor Edmund G. Brown of California held a place of honor in the governor’s mansion in Sacramento during Brown’s tenure there.

Allan painting plein air
Allan painting plein air with his wife Marion 1970s

Allan married Marion Marie Chantry in 1920. Marion, who suffered from limited vision, was an amazing woman in her own right and a great inspiration to Allan. Shortly after Allan died, Marion had a cataract removal procedure and placement of an artificial lens in one of her eyes. She was able to see better with this lens than she had seen since she was a young woman. It was an incredible revelation for her to see Allan’s work with her dramatically improved vision. She really had no idea how wonderful his paintings were! All those years she had supported him, praised him and encouraged him based largely on her faith in him. She regretted terribly that it was too late to share with him her great pleasure at seeing his paintings for what was really the first time.

Allan and Marion had two children: a son, Lloyd and a daughter they named after a character in a poem of Allan Edgar’s namesake… Lenore.

Marion, Allan, Lenore and Lloyd Kramer 1981

Allan Kramer died in 1986 several months after suffering a stroke at the age of 84.