Janet Kaplan

b. 1917

Janet Printz Kaplan is an artist who specializes in dog paintings and abstract sculptures.  Her grandmother was born in Vilna, spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, and English fluently, and moved to London to marry a businessman.  Janet’s mother moved to Boston when she was eight and later married a Hungarian immigrant.  Born in Brookline, Janet Kaplan studied art at Radcliffe and left without finishing her degree; she continued to study art, expanding into other media that included pottery, wood sculpture, bronze casting, and watercolor.  Her work has been exhibited in several galleries, and she collects work by other artists.  Janet was also very interested in breeding dogs and participating in dog shows.  Her husband worked at a law firm, and together they became involved with local charities, such as the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.  Janet has three adult children, all married, and continues to remain active by bird-watching and playing tennis. 

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Janet describes her early childhood, family history, the neighborhood in Brookline where she grew up, and experiences at Temple Israel, where her family attended.  She also remembers celebrating holidays as a family and the traditional foods that stand out to her.  After high school, Janet attended Radcliffe College and lived at home.  During this time, Janet became more interested in studying and doing art.  She left Radcliffe, got a job as a medical technician, and studied art at night.  Janet says she "never missed not having a degree because [she] was more interested in creative art.”  Janet loves to draw dogs, and she explains where her interest and inspiration for dogs as a subject came from – her family dog and memories of attending dog shows with her father.  Janet also became involved with Plymouth Pottery, discovered she enjoyed working with her hands, and went to the Pottery Workshop, part of the school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Janet recalls meeting her husband, a lawyer, at the symphony, their quick engagement, their happy marriage together, and settling in Cambridge when their children were grown.  Additionally, Janet details the many community organizations and efforts she contributes to and is actively involved in, including the League of Women Voters, Hecht House, and the Cambridge Art Association.  A highlight of the interview concerns her relationship with a German high school exchange student, Tom Gatling, whom she hosted for a year.  He was one of few Jewish children born in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and he became very close to Kaplan’s family.  Janet talks about raising her three children, what each of them was like, and how their individual lives unfolded.  Janet continues to stay active, playing tennis, gardening, and making art.  

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Janet Kaplan. Interviewed by Rachel Alexander. 5 November 1997, 2 December 1997. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/kaplan-janet>.

Oral History of Janet Kaplan by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.