Claire Van Vliet
Artist and Book Publisher
San Diego State University
Claire Van Vliet is best known as the founder and owner of Janus Press, a world-renowned publisher of fine books. At her Vermont home and studio, Ms. Van Vliet has created a significant body of watercolors, drawings, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs and pulp paintings, many of which have found their way into the unique books she designs, typesets, prints and binds.
Born in Ottawa, Canada, Ms. Van Vliet has lived in the United States since 1947. In 1952 she graduated from San Diego State University at the age of 18 with a general-major degree in history, geography, and art history. Two years later she completed a Master of Fine Arts at Claremont Graduate School. After graduate school, Ms. Van Vliet sought work as a printer but discovered that printing houses did not hire women. Undeterred, she eventually obtained a position at the Pickering Press in Philadelphia, where she spent two years learning letterpress printing and typography. She later launched a teaching career, first at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of Arts) and then as a visiting lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the University of Vermont.
Ms. Van Vliet has illustrated and printed versions of several books by Franz Kafka, including A Country Doctor and Parables and Paradoxes, as well as first editions by Margaret Kaufman, Sandra McPherson, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Thom Gunn. By printing on handmade paper the texts of favorite authors and composers in combination with small prints of her own and of other artists, she has created 90 books and 15 broadsides in the 47-year history of Janus Press. Several of these books, including Batterers by Denise Levertov and Circulus Sapintiae by Hildegard of Bingen, were created with a technique called "pulp painting," a medium of which she is considered a master.
Ms. Van Vliet has had approximately 40 solo exhibitions, including shows at the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery; Rutgers University Art Gallery; the Print Club in Philadelphia; Amerikahaus in Heidelberg, Germany; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 1989, she was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award. Often referred to as the "genius" award, the MacArthur fellowship allows exceptional writers, professors, artists and activists the chance to work without financial worries. She has received several grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and in 1993 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. In 1995, she was elected to the National Academy of Design in New York. The Library of Congress holds a large collection of the Janus Press, and Ms. Van Vliet's work is represented in the library's permanent online exhibit. The San Diego State University Library's Special Collections owns a full collection of her work at the Janus Press.
In recognition of her lifelong commitment to excellence in the arts, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon Claire Van Vliet the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.