John H. Kaelin was born in Cutchogue, Long Island. He began painting late in life, studying with Joseph Beckwith Hartranft. A long-time member of the Old Town Arts & Crafts Guild in Cutchogue, he received public recognition for his painting. Kaelin was a founding member of the Tuesday Art Club with fellow Peconic Bay Impressionists, Hartranft, Gilbert B. Miner, George McAdams and Larry Waitz. He occasionally traveled to Rockport, Massachusetts with Miner where they painted with Emile Gruppe and other Rockport artists.