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Peter Klassen, Bluffton's first artist

Came to Bluffton College from the Ukraine;

on the faculty from 1924 to 1958

Longtime Bluffton College art professor John Peter Klassen was photographed in his studio.

Visitors to the campus can see more than 30 works created by Klassen and by his students in bronze, wood, and marble.

Professor Klassen was born in Kronsgarten, Ukraine, on April 8, 1888, to Peter and Katharine (Dyck) Klassen. He married Anna Dyck in 1921. In 1923 the Klassen’s arrived in Canada from Russia.

His studies included Predigerschule, Basel, Switzerland, 1906-08; Gymnasium, Basel, 1909; University of Berlin, 1909; private student in sculpturing and modeling, Munich, 1909-12; Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, 1912-14; and University of Munich, 1909-14. He was a professor of art, Seminary, Chortitza, Russia, 1920-23. During World War I he was a Red Cross truck driver. He helped get a permit for Mennonites to leave Russia after the Russian Revolution.

Klassen became a member of the Bluffton faculty at the invitation of President S.K. Mosiman in 1924 and remained on the faculty until 1958.

His works combine religious themes with first-hand observations of the Russian Revolution, where he saw suffering, hardship and death. Countless Klassen works are in the collections of friends, former students, and artists throughout North America.

Anna died in June 1975. John died two months later at the age of 87.


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