Claire Van Vliet Biography

Claire Van Vliet




Painter, printmaker, illustrator, and typographer Claire Van Vliet was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1933, daughter of a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot who was stationed in England for part of Van Vliet's childhood. Early memories of walking past Stonehenge in the care of her nanny would inspire her later work. After the deaths of both of her parents by age fourteen, Van Vliet was sent in 1947 to live with her aunt in California. She graduated high school at age fifteen and enrolled at San Diego State College. There, she earned her BA in 1953, and in 1954, her MFA from Claremont Graduate School.

Following graduation she founded Janus Press in San Diego, a small publishing press that uses traditional bookmaking methods to create art books. She published her first book, a rendition of John Theobald's An Oxford Odyssey, using her own woodcuts for the illustrations. She then traveled to Europe for two years, returning to the U.S. in 1957 to work for the Lanston Monotype Company in Philadelphia.

In 1955 Van Vliet moved to Madison, Wisconsin. This would remain her home base for several years as she continued to develop her typesetting and compositing skills, and there she continued to operate the press. She took a teaching position at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art and the Philadelphia Museum College of Art from 1965 to 1966. In 1966 she settled permanently in Vermont, where she reestablished Janus Press in Newark, expanding its capacity to teach bookmaking methodology, including papermaking, bookbinding, and pulp painting, as well as printmaking, for which she is recognized as a Master Printer. 

In 1989 she was the recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for her work in book arts and teaching. She was elected an Associate of the National Academy and received two honorary doctorates. 
To date, Van Vliet has published upwards of 100 art books, receiving nominations by the AIGA's annual Fifty Best Books awards and inclusion the New York Type Director's Club exhibitions. 

She lives and works in Newark, Vermont.