National Museum of Women in the Arts
Claire Van Vliet
1933 - present
Photograph of Claire Van Vliet, by John Somers, courtesy of the artist. (c) John Somers
Place of Birth:
American, Canadian
Phonetic Spelling:
clair van vleet
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Collagist, Lithographer, Painter, Paper Artist, Paper Maker, Printmaker, Watercolorist
Artist's Biography:
Born in Ottawa, Canada, Claire Van Vliet spent her early childhood in the Stonehenge area of England, where her father served in the Air Force. “We had an English nanny, and she took us on a long walk every day even if the weather was bad…so I was in the landscape a lot. I suspect that those walks were most formative,” remembers the artist. Such an early exposure to nature heightened Van Vliet’s interest in the great outdoors and influenced her desire to celebrate the landscape in her art.

The artist lost both parents before she reached the age fourteen. She was raised by an aunt in San Diego, California. An exceptionally gifted child, she graduated from high school at fifteen, then attended San Diego State College and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University in 1954.

In 1958, she moved to Philadelphia to work as an apprentice with John Anderson at Pickering Press. Her first book of engravings, The Oxford Odyssey, was published in 1955, the same year that Van Vliet began Janus Press. The Janus Press embodies the age-old tradition of book-making yet it also experiments with innovative book formats and structures. To date, the press has published more than one hundred limited-edition artists’ books and Van Vliet is currently working on a catalogue, Janus Press—50 Years to accompany exhibitions of her work at the National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC and the Grolier Club, New York from 2006 to 2007.

In addition to creating and publishing artist books, Van Vliet has executed drawings, prints, watercolors, large paintings, and monotypes on pulp paper. She has lectured at universities and museums, led workshops, and received many honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1989.

Biography courtesy of Claire Van Vliet

Other Occupation(s):
Lecturer, Printer, Professor, Publisher, Typographer
Place(s) of Residence:
San Diego
West Burke
Where Trained/Schools:
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA (1951-1954) San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA (1950)
Related Visual Artists:
colleague of Warrington Colescott apprentice of John Anderson teacher of William Weege
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, Vermont Arts Council, Montpelier, VT, USA (1999) Elected Member, National Academy of Design, New York, NY, USA (1995) Fellowship, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL, USA (1989)
Earliest exhibition:
Lang Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, CA, USA (1954)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Presswork: The Art of Women Printmakers
Book as Art: Tenth Anniversary Exhibition
Book as Art XII: Artists' Books from the Permanent Collection
Book As Art XIII: Artists' Books About Artists
Book as Art I
Book as Art IV
Insomnia: Landscapes of the Night
The Book as Art: Twenty Years of Artists' Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts
Book as Art VII
Book as Art XV
Circulus Sapientiae (Circle of Wisdom), 2001
The Dream of the Dirty Woman, 1980
Dido and Aeneas