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Artist and antique dealer Leonard Kaplan, who worked in Franklin D. Roosevelt Works Project Administration, died April 15 after complications from a fall in his Laguna Beach home several months ago. He was 86.
Kaplan was best known in recent years for creating mixed media collages from 18th and 19th century prints.
Born Jan. The young Kaplan earned a scholarship to New York Art Students League, where he studied under American School artist Reginald Marsh.
By 18, he was employed by the WPA as an assistant to Dean Fausett, who was then painting murals at Henry Street Settlement. He met his first wife, Nancy Wing, sister of Laguna Beach artist Andy Wing, in the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York, where he helped to paint murals with WPA underwriting. Navy Sea Bees, though his military career was cut short when he contracted fever at Camp Peary near Williamsburg, Va. The Kaplans moved to Laguna Beach in late 1945 after Kaplan was hired by potter Dick Knox. Kaplan soon began working for himself, producing paper mach metal trays that he sold to Bullock along with figurines that he sold at the Festival of the Arts.
It was during this period that Kaplan began collecting pieces of ancient art, which would eventually develop into his business of buying and selling antiquities and antiques; in 1953, Kaplan son, Adam, was born.
In the early to mid Kaplan began to work in resin and was hired to create art for the Beverly Hilton Hotel. In the 1950s, he executed commissions for six resin murals for Stix, Baer and Fuller Department Store in St. Louis, a mural for Gimble in Milwaukee, Wis., and a large painting for Hallmark corporate headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.
In the early 1960s, Kaplan opened his Ancient Arts shop near the intersection of Glenneyre and Thalia streets in Laguna Beach. In the early 1980s, he retired from shopkeeping, and began to produce mixed media collages, while still buying and selling antiques from his living room.
Kaplan continued to be a fixture in the Laguna arts community for more than 60 years. A retrospective of his work titled Dreams was mounted at the Laguna Beach Museum of Art in 2003. Kaplan oral biography is archived in the Smithsonian Institution Archive of American Artists.