Otis Kaye (1885–1904) was born in 1885 in Neemah, Michigan. Werner Kaye, his German-immigrant father, who died in 1904, owned a lumber yard. With his mother Frieda Millabeke, Kaye moved to New York where he acquired his aesthetic impulse. Art was only a hobby, however, not a vocation for Kaye. He studied engineering in Dresden, Germany, and later formed an engineering firm with his cousin Paul Banks – J.J. Billsby & Co. He married Alma Goldstein, a woman he met during the 1920s, when he lived in Pittsburgh. Kaye was heavily influenced by the Dutch masters, especially Rembrandt. Other influences include Whistler and N.A. Brooks. Money painting was Kaye’s specialty. He took realism to new heights by recreating every exact line to the finest detail.
He moved to Chicago with his wife and son after World War I. His financial holdings were hurt by the Great Depression and although highly regarded, Kaye sold only two paintings in his lifetime. One of the persistent obstacles to his artistic career was punishment from the federal government due to a law passed in 1909 that mandated criminal prosecution for currency painting. Kaye often focused on bills that were out of circulation, as did preceding money painters Haberle and Harnett. Kaye moved back to Dresden in 1966 and passed away there in 1974. Kaye never exhibited any of his work publicly and family and friends own most of his work that remains today.