Vera Klement, Painter Who Saw Both Beauty and Evil, Dies at 93

As she continued to work in New York — and, after 1964, in Chicago — her paintings eventually embraced figurative art again — and sometimes combined the two.

In the 1970s, she became an activist in the art world as a founding member of the Five, a group of abstract artists who worked together to hold exhibitions of huge works in the lobbies of buildings in Chicago, and an active member of the Artemisia Gallery, a feminist cooperative there.

By then, she had begun teaching at the University of Chicago, where she remained a respected faculty member until 1995.

“Vera taught me that a painter must balance craft and ideas: too much skill and a painting is boring, too conceptual and a painting is bloodless,” Joanne Berens, a former student, wrote in an email. “Although her own ideas came from high European culture, Vera was never a snob and encouraged her students to express ideas that came from the stuff of their own lives.”

Ms. Klement received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1981.

In addition to her son, she is survived by her life partner, Peter Baker, a retired pediatrician. Her marriages to Werner Torkanowsky, a violinist and conductor, and Ralph Shapey, a composer and conductor, ended in divorce.

In 2019, Ms. Klement completed “Carpeted,” an Abstract Expressionist painting of a flying carpet. When it was done, she retired.

“She was slowing down and making fewer and fewer paintings,” her son, Mr. Shapey, said. “She hadn’t run out of ideas. But she looked at it and said, ‘I’ve said everything I want to.’”

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