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  • John P. Klassen


    Art Brokerage: John P. Klassen Ukrainian Artist: b. 1888-1975. John Klassen was born April 8, 1888 in Kronsgarten on the northern borders of the Chortitza colony of Mennonite settlements in the Ukraine. He died in Bluffton, Ohio, on August 6, 1975. When he was about one year of age, his parents and some other young couples and families made a move to some new lands just west of the Dnieper River to establish two new Mennonite settlements, Miloradowka and Yekaterinowka. It was there that he grew up with his three brothers and one sister. The Ukranian Mennonites periodically made such expansion moves as the land in older colonies became filled and new land became available. These "daughter colonies" relieved the pressure on the "mother colonies" and continued the gradual expansion of the Mennonite presence in Russia. Even as they moved, however, the Mennonites always maintained their culture which included the use of Plautdietsch, their Low German language. The world was also changing around him. Russia had had its first brush with revolution in 1905, and the father of revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin, banned from Russia, also took up residence in Switzerland. There he bided his time and worked on his theories. Lenin also courted the support of Russian nationals wherever he could find them. Klassen told how he and other Russian students would gather in the "Blue Café" where Lenin would hold forth with lectures and discussions of his ideology and his hopes for Russia. He added that they also encountered Lenin on the streets of Basel on occasion. Years later in Bluffton, Klassen made a little statuette of Lenin, seated, and busily writing on his manifestos. Klassen eventually made his decision to leave theology and pursue his training in art. This later took him to studies in Munich and Berlin. As it turned out, Enns made a similar decision and turned to art history, languages, and philosophy. The two students, though, continued their correspondence. Enns somehow saved many of his letters from Klassen and miraculously they still exist. They came to light in 1987 when Harry Loewen, a Mennonite scholar from the University of Winnipeg, was interviewing Enns in Lübeck, Germany. Enns had by then become a prominent art critic, historian, and poet in Lübeck where he had settled after the First World War and lived the rest of his life. From 1924 until the late 1950s, John P. Klassen was the sole embodiment of the art department at Mennonite-affiliated Bluffton College-today Bluffton University. He was the origin of the legacy of visual arts at Bluffton. Listings wanted by Art Brokerage.

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