Photography courtesy of Robert Seyffert
As a boy, Trafford Klots rode horses, skated on a pond at a family farm, sang around the piano, and learned to hunt. Born on the eve of World War I, the well-rounded Klots studied both in Europe and at the Gilman School in Baltimore and later became an accomplished painter of portraits, landscapes, florals, and still-lifes.
Robert Seyffert was a young man in the early 1970s when he first met Klots, who was lifelong friends with Seyffert’s uncle.
“He was the kind of person, when he walked into a room, everyone paid attention,” says Seyffert, who now lives in New York.
“He was tall and very, very funny. He was very optimistic and thoughtful. I could not have been happier to meet him when I was in college. He was not a rock star, but he was an amazing person to me.”
Klots, who died in 1976, was shaped by a childhood split between Maryland and Europe. Born in Rome on New Year’s Eve in 1913 to Alfred Partridge Klots and Agnes Boon Klots, he spent much of his youth at an artist colony established by his parents in Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany in northwest France.
In the fall of 1915, with the Great War underway, Klots sailed with his mother and older sister, Elizabeth, to Baltimore, where he enrolled at Gilman.
Klots left the school in 1932 for the British Academy in Rome; he later attended the Shaw School in London. While he spent a lot of time at the French artist colony with his parents, Klots also maintained a studio—into the 1970s—just east of North Charles Street in Mt. Vernon.
Stiles T. Colwill, the former director of the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS), remembers first meeting Klots a few years before the artist’s death. Klots was visiting the MdHS when Colwill complimented one of his paintings. Klots then invited Colwill and a colleague to his studio one afternoon for martinis.
“He was full of life and lived life to the fullest. He was wonderful to be around,” recalls Colwill, the founder of Stiles T. Colwill Interiors of Lutherville.
Not limiting himself to Baltimore, Klots made many trips to the southern tip of the Chesapeake Bay, as well, where he enjoyed painting landscapes and hunting.
“A number of his friends were duck hunters, as was he,” says Colwill, adding that many of Klots’ paintings depict another seminal outdoorsy activity, the Maryland Hunt Cup.
But the artist was lauded for his stellar portraiture, too, capturing such notable figures as Adlai Stevenson, Queen Elizabeth, and the Earl of Eldon.
“Trafford said more in his paintings, more about life and people and places, than any other artist I have ever witnessed,” says Seyffert. “His portraits were broad and full of life.”
In 1989, to spread that exuberance to future generations of artists, Klots’ widow, Isabel, founded the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in Rochefort-en-Terre, asking Seyffert to help bring in participants. In 1995, the Maryland Institute College of Art took over the program, which relocated to Léhon, also in Brittany, in 2011.
Asked to describe her gifted late husband, Isabel, who now lives in Roland Park, responds with just one word: “Jovial.”
For more information on the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists at MICA, visit tinyurl.com/c2vmzfp.