Joseph Kleitsch was a highly regarded portraitist throughout his career, receiving commissions from wealthy industrialists, silent picture stars, and other influential clients.

As Kleitsch built his reputation as a popular Chicago portraitist, he began to also experiment with illuminating his works with natural light and backlighting techniques influenced by his exposure to the work of Dutch masters like Vermeer. Kleitsch’s distribution of light became a psychological tool while portraying his subjects, coupled with a keen understanding of color, texture, and decorative pattering to evoke mood.

Whereas the bulk of Kleitsch’s commissioned portraits were composed in the traditionally formal manner, in others he applied the Impressionist attitude of intimacy and the present moment.  In Portrait of the Artist's Wife and Girl in Red, the figures gaze directly at the viewer, as if in conversation or introduction.

"Kleitsch’s portrayal of individual expression as well as his freedom of thought and action are especially discernable in his uncommissioned portraits … These more spontaneous portraits seem to be of people he knew, whose mannerisms and personalities were familiar to him.”

-Patricia Trenton, Joseph Kleitsch: A Kaleidoscope of Color, p.89