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Robert Mallory Klein


Robert Mallory Klein - a diplomat, an author, a painter.

His greatest joy was setting up his easel, uncapping his oils and painting the ordinary scenes of peoples' lives.  "With unusual clarity, he portrayed special places so 'unscenic' that most passersby missed them, so subtle that long-time residents took them for granted", said one reviewer.

If Klein saw better than the rest of us, perhaps it was because he was a trained traveler - neither a temporary tourist nor a permanent participant in the communities he surveyed.  While in the diplomatic service he worked in the Sahara, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, & South America.  From his vast arsenal of experience - negotiating with governments to overseeing the development of a road in the desert - he developed a keen and compassionate view of the lives people built for themselves.  This is what he painted.

The Northeast Kingdom:  Klein undertook to paint all the villages and hamlets of the Northeast Kingdom (Northern Vermont) - by his count there would have been over one hundred.  In pursuit of this goal, Klein "refused to prettify his work, faithfully portraying what he saw  - porches leaning, houses boarded up, a roof casually patched, haphazard telephone wires".  He thereby created an enduring image of the towns and villages he loved.  As he observed their homes, their streets and their lives he remarked, "These are the people we call upon to fight our wars.  There are always a number of American flags hanging out.  You get a strong sense of patriotism, a 'this is my country' type of thing.  And then there is this storefront religion of no particular mainline church you can identify.  The American flag and these churches permeate the Northeast Kingdom."

New York City & New Orleans:  Klein produced a vibrant series of paintings on the street corners of New York City and New Orleans.  In Vermont and New York City his paintings were purchased as he stood on the country road or Park Avenue painting, the purchaser occasionally departing with a finished work, the oils still wet.  These paintings now hang on the walls of restaurants, homes or the businesses he was painting.  He loved the conversations on the streets that his paintings inspired.  He chatted with boys on bicycles, mothers with baby carriages and men in suits.  "New Yorkers and Vermonters are certainly great talkers, " he often commented.

The Collages: Klein's final phase of work consisted of large canvasses, 5' by 8', representative of his life's work.  These pieces are a bold and direct look at Korea just after the 'conflict', Saigon and the American GI in 1968, colorful dwellers of the Saharan Desert, and an embassy cocktail party.    These glimpses of American history are dramatically portrayed in oils upon a collaged backdrop of foreign currency, photographs, newspaper clippings and embassy invitations.  The combination of the collage and the painting captures a moment in time that gives one pause.  They are as thoughtfully produced as they are thought provoking.

Largely self taught, Klein studied at The Art Students League in New York City, Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and Johnson State College in Vermont.  His favorite teachers were his fellow artists. Solo shows have been held in New York City, Boston, Middlebury, Stowe, Shelburne, Burlington, Hardwick, Morrisville and Montpelier, Vermont.

All images © by Robert Mallory Klein 2010.  All rights reserved
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