Gene Kloss, Artist and Phillips Kloss, Writer


Gene Kloss, Artist 

Phillips Kloss, Writer

Kloss Residence: 670 Woodmont Avenue

Gene and Phillips Kloss were a noted artistic and literary couple. In 1941 a Berkeley newspaper columnist captured their artistic marriage in these terms: “What Gene Kloss can catch in metal and oils, Phillips Kloss grasps and paints in words.” (1)

Artist Gene Kloss is best remembered for her distinctive etchings of scenes in the American Southwest.  She captured Taos, Western landscapes, and Native American subjects in striking fluid works with dramatic contrasts of light and dark.  Photographer and friend Ansel Adams once said that photographs should be like the prints Kloss produced.

Gene’s personal and artistic roots lay in the Bay Area and Berkeley. Born Alice Geneva Glaiser in Oakland, she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with honors in art in 1924. Among her art teachers at UC were Ray Boynton and Perham Nahl.   She took a class in etching as a senior, did her first etching in her kitchen, and printed it with Nahl on an antique press in his campus office.  When the print emerged the admiring Nahl told her “if this is your first etching you are going to be an etcher.” (2)

In 1925 she took courses at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and married fellow UC graduate, poet and composer Phillips Kloss. The couple honeymooned in New Mexico, where Phillips had gone to school as a teenager.  In Taos Canyon, Gene “did innumerable paintings and drawings” and produced etchings on a small portable press she set up on a tree stump near their campsite.

Phillips Kloss, was a poet, writer, and composer as well as a careful student of the anthropology and natural history of the Southwest. He was described by one reviewer as “a real artist in words.” “There is no joy in life unless/The heart can find the wilderness,” he wrote in one of his early poems. He published several books of poetry, often on Southwest themes, composed music, and wrote about music and Native American chants.

For decades the couple made regular trips to Taos where they became respected members of its art colony.  Alternating between the Bay Area and New Mexico, Gene Kloss etched and personally printed hundreds of scenes, exhibiting and selling her art in both regions.

The Klosses spent part of each year in Berkeley until the mid-1940s. Gene’s etchings included such Berkeley scenes as buildings on the UC campus and landscapes in the hills. They lived on Woodmont Avenue, a bucolic street which runs along the crest of the ridge in North Berkeley.

Contributed by Steven Finacom, 2016

  • Gene Kloss, Taos,

  • Gene Kloss, University Library (1929), photo California State Library

  • Gene Kloss, The Campanile, Berkeley photo

  • Gene Kloss, Across the Bay (1926), photo California State Library

  • Gene Kloss In the Berkeley Hills, photo

  • Kloss Residence, 670 Woodmont Ave. photo (2016) R. Kehlmann.

More information:
(1) Berkeley Daily Gazette, “So We’re Told” column by Hal Johnson, November 14, 1942

(2) 1964 Oral History interview at Archives of American Art with Gene Kloss

Gene Kloss biographical sketch.


Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society