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Belle Cramer


Belle Klauber Cramer was born on August 11, 1883 in New York City. According to the 1905 census, Belle lived with her parents David and Eliza Klauber on West 88th Street along with her older brother Arthur and her younger brothers Edward and Murray.  In 1906, at the age of 22, Belle married German native William Cramer and they established residence in Edinburgh, Scotland where he was a physician specializing in cancer pathology.

Early in life, Belle trained as a pianist and, after a stint at Columbia’s Teachers College, began her formal art education at the Edinburgh College of Art, where she studied from 1909 to 1915. When the couple and their first son moved to London in 1915, Belle continued her studies both privately and at the Massy Art School.  Beginning in about 1918, Cramer began exhibiting at the London galleries and as part of The London Group, a progressive artist-led society founded in 1913.

In 1922, an art critic writing for The Observer (London) described Cramer as “developing into a first class colourist” for work exhibited at The Women’s Academy at Olympia.  She exhibited often in group and solo exhibitions in during her years in London at various well-reviewed galleries including Adelphi Gallery, Arnold Haskell Gallery, Frank Rutter Gallery, the Cooling Galleries and Goupil Gallery.  Belle had her second son in 1924. 

Belle lived in London for 24 years.  

In 1939, the Cramers moved to St. Louis for Dr. Cramer’s new position in research at the Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital.  Belle first began exhibiting in St. Louis just after her arrival when she was accepted into a juried exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum in November, 1940. Her first solo exhibition took place at the Eleanor Smith Galleries in 1941.  She exhibited for nearly 40 years at various galleries and at the St. Louis Artists Guild – the original location for which is still standing at 812 N. Union Boulevard.  By 1971 she had become “the Grande Dame of St. Louis painters” as described in the Bulletin of the St. Louis Art Museum upon acceptance of one of her paintings into the permanent collection.

Belle was a singular and beloved figure in the St. Louis art world during her nearly 40 years in the community.  After her husband’s death just 5 years after they arrived, Belle continued to build a meaningful life in her adopted midwestern city impacting countless art enthusiasts, collectors, institutions, colleagues and students as she devoted herself to studies, painting and teaching.

In 1950 and 1953, Belle showed solo exhibitions at the Van Diemen-Lilienfeld Galleries in New York.  And throughout the 1950s, went on to study painting under Paul Burlin, perhaps her most influential teacher, both at University of Southern California and at Washington University in St. Louis.  She also studied print making under Fred Conway at Washington University in St. Louis.

Her numerous group exhibitions include those with The Group 15 – a progressive St. Louis artist collective whose number included luminaries of the mid-century art community at the time:  Fred Becker, Paul Burlin, Fred Conway, Werner Drewes, William Fett, Charles Quest, E. Oscar Thalinger and Carly Holty.   Belle is known to have feted guests with fabulous salon-style art showings in her Delmar Avenue apartment.  She was friends of Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.  One of her 1950 New York exhibits was reviewed by Aline Saarinen who called the paintings “joyous, sensitive and imaginative.”

Belle Cramer died in St. Louis, Missouri on September 9, 1978 at the age of 95.

1883  Born New York, NY
1909-13 Studied Edinburgh College of Art
1916-20 Private art studies in London
1920-24 Studied at Massy Art School, London
1940-78 Lived in St. Louis, MO
1954 Studied painting at University of Southern California with Paul Burlin
1956-59 Studied printmaking at Washington University, St. Louis, MO with Fred Conway


1930-39 International Society of Women Artists, London
1941-1978 St. Louis Artists' Guild
1941-78  Group 15, St. Louis
1946-1978 Artists' Equity
1952-1978 National Society of Women Artists
1959-78 Who's Who in American Women
1965-69 Painter's Gallery, St. Louis
19679-78 Academy of Professional Artists, St. Louis

Solo Exhibitions

1921-39  Arnold Haskell Gallery, London
               Frank Rutter Gallery, London
                Goupil Gallery, London
1941-48 Eleanor Smith Galleries, St. Louis
1949, 1958, 1963, 1970 St. Louis Artists' Guild
1950, 1953 Van Diemen-Lilleinfeld Gallery, NY
1955 Martin Schweig Gallery, St. Louis
1961 St. Louis Art Museum
1962 Lindenwood College, ST. Charles, MO
1964  Denison University, Granville,OH
1964-69 Gallery 508, St. Louis
1966-68 Painter's Gallery, St. Louis
1970 Loretto-Hilton Center Gallery, St. Louis
1982 Washington University, St. Louis

Group Exhibitions:

1917-39  London Group
                New English Art Club
                Winter Royal Academy, London
                Royal Portrait Society, London
1941-1965   Group 15 St. Louis
1941-1978 Artists' Guild, St. Louis
1947, 48,52, Jocelyn Museum, Omaha Nebraska
1947, 49, 52 Topeka Museum, KS
1949 ,51,52 ,62 Springfield Museum, MO
1951 Nelson Atkins Museum
1951 Denver Museum
1952 Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA Watercolor Show
1954, 55, 59, 61, 68,72 City Art Museum, St. Louis
1956 Brooks Museum, Memphis, TN
1958 Library of Congress
1958 Philadelphia Print Club
1960 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1967 US Embassies Travelling Show
1968 Arkansas Art Center
1971 St. Louis University
1973 National Association of Women Artists


St. Louis Art Museum
Washington, University, St. Louis
Betty Parsons Gallery
Joseph Pulitzer Collection
Denison University, Granville OH
St. Louis Artists' Guild
Lindenwood College, St. Charles, MO
Mary Institute, St. Louis
Webster College, St. Louis