C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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As a commercial venture, Capps produced a dozen small aquatints of Hawaiian subjects based on photographs that had been sent to him from the Islands. These prints, marketed in Hawaii, were made both before and after World War II in editions of 150 or more. Each of these small aquatints (usually about 3-1/2 x 4 inches) demonstrated the same skill and effort he devoted to his other prints.

For much of his life as an artist, Capps drew inspiration from the mountains and adobe structures of northern New Mexico. He sent many summer months sketching and photographing the landscape and architecture of the area. When he returned to Wichita, he transformed these sketches and photographs into powerful images of an ancient landscape which had not yet been impacted by the industrialization of the rest of the nation. From simple homes to magnificent churches his architectural features seem to grow out of the earth and become one with the environment, and his aquatints capture this vision. The largest number of his aquatints are of northern New Mexican subjects from communities such as Questa, Peñasco, Las Trampas, and Taos.

In 1967 Capps is listed as having produced two prints – Church of the Twelve Apostles and Mountain Mission. The Catalog Raisonné2 lists an edition of only four prints for the Church of the Twelve Apostles executed in an unknown medium while Mountain Mission had an edition of 200 and was a commissioned gift print for the Friends of Art, Kansas State University. It appears that the two prints are actually the same image – the beautiful San Jose Church at Las Trampas, New Mexico, which was completed about 1760. However, there is a tradition in the village of Las Trampas that the Church was built some seventy years earlier, a time when no Europeans were actually resident in the area, and dedicated to the Twelve Apostles. Where did Capps get the title? Perhaps when he was sketching the Las Trampas Church one of the local residents told him the story.

Another perplexing problem concerns the identification of an unsigned and untitled aquatint. Although identified by an art dealer as the Church of the Twelve Apostles, it is an image of the Chapel of Santo Nino in Chimayo, New Mexico. However, the image is reversed from real life. This may be the rarest of Capps’s aquatints. It is not included in the Catalog Raisonné, and is likely the only remaining print of this subject. The community of printmakers in Wichita area often shared prints with their fellow printmakers. Since the image was reversed, Capps may have limited the production of the print and distributed it to only a few friends without intending to market it.

When “Chili” Capps passed away on July 17, 1981, the art world lost a major printmaker. In his own quiet way he had produced a significant body of work while employed full time as a production manager for the McCormick-Armstrong firm in Wichita. He had provided for his family, yet achieved international recognition as an artist. The evidence of his formidable skill as a draftsman, his technical proficiency as a printmaker, and his fine aesthetic sense remains readily apparent in his prints to this day.

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Sources: Images - from private collections, Zaplin-Lampert Gallery, Allan McIntyre Fine Art, and museums.  Catalogs - Charles M. Capps, Master Printmaker: A Catalog Raisonné, Gall and Shaull, Dodge City, KS. 1994, The Prairie Print Makers, Barbara Thompson-O’Neill, George Foreman & Howard Ellington, 1981,(with text from interviews with Charles Capps) and Charles M. Capps catalog of the Zaplin-Lampert Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.

for information about these Capps  catalogs:

Charles M. Capps, Zaplin-Lampert Gallery catalog -  click here

Charles M. Capps, Master Printmaker catalog - click here

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Charles M. “Chili” Capps 1898 - 1981


Prairie Print Makers

Society of American Etchers

Chicago Society of Etchers

Philadelphia Society of Etchers & Graphic Artists

Printmakers Society of California

Rocky Mountain Printmakers

Albany Print Club

Northwest Printmakers

Museum Collections include:

Library of Congress & Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

Art Institute of Chicago

Kansas City Art Institute

Wichita Art Museum, Kansas

Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas