The papers of arts administrator, museum director, collector, dealer, and editor Charles M. Kurtz (1855-1909), measure 27.74 linear feet and date from 1843-1990 (bulk dates 1884-1909). The bulk of the collection consists of detailed chronological correspondence between Kurtz and his wife and family, friends, colleagues, and business associates that documents many notable exhibitions, galleries, museums, private collections, as well as cities, people, and events of the period. Also found in the collection are Kurtz's diaries, scrapbooks, printed materials, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The Charles M. Kurtz papers measure 27.74 linear feet and date from 1843 to 1990 with the bulk of the material dating from 1884 to 1909. The bulk of the collection consists of chronological correspondence between Kurtz and his family, most notably his wife, friends, colleagues, and business associates. Kurtz's letters are amazingly detailed and document many notable exhibitions, galleries, museums, private collections, as well as cities, people, and events of the period. The letters between Kurtz and his wife are most interesting for their descriptive commentary on late 19th century life and offer a complete picture of Kurtz's activities. Many of Kurtz's letters to Halsey C. Ives can be found in the Halsey C. Ives Papers. Some of the letters in the collection are illustrated. Also found in the collection are Kurtz's diaries, scrapbooks, printed materials, and photographs.
The collection is organized into twelve series.
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1885-1931, undated
Series 2: Correspondence, 1843-1940, undated
Series 3: Circulars/Requests for Submissions of Works of Art, 1886-1905
Series 4: Legal Records, 1881-1928
Series 5: Financial Records, 1870-1989, undated
Series 6: Diaries, 1894-1901
Series 7: Notes and Writings, 1872-1980, undated
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1878-1909
Series 9: Printed Material, 1873-1990, undated
Series 10: Photographs, 1898-1990
Series 11: Photographs of Works of Art, undated
Series 12: Miscellany, undated
Charles M. Kurtz's name is known to many scholars and students of American art history. To some he is important for his critical writings, others are interested in his management of exhibitions for the Art Union and the American Art Association. Many are aware of him because of his publication of National Academy Notes, which continued for nine years. Still others are familiar with Kurtz in his role as an art administrator for late 19th century art exhibitions like those at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the St. Louis Fair, or for his accomplishments as the first director of the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Sometimes researchers have become familiar with his name through the sale catalogue for his considerable collection, which was sold at auction after his death in 1909. His career, which encompassed the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, touched on virtually every aspect of art in America during that period.
Born in 1853 to Davis Brook Kurtz (1826-1906), an attorney, and Julia Wilder, Charles Kurtz enjoyed a genteel upbringing. The Kurtz family originated in Darmstadt, Germany, and migrated to America in the eighteenth century. D.B. Kurtz, a leading member of the Lawrence County bar, was also a vice-president of the National Bank of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. As a local representative of many important railroad and business interests, he accumulated assets estimated at one million dollars by the time of his death, just three years before that of his son, Charles, the eldest of his five children. Unlike his brothers Louis, who also became an attorney, and Edward, a professor at Columbia University, Charles eschewed a professional career to enter the art world, as did his sisters Emily, an artist, and Catherine, a musician.
After his graduation from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, Kurtz visited the Centennial Exposition, held in 1876 in Philadelphia, before coming to New York to study art at the National Academy of Design. These two activities foreshadowed the direction that his career would eventually take. As the chronology indicates, his early efforts revolve around writing for a variety of publications, most notably, his own National Academy Notes. In 1881 he took what was to be the first of many trips abroad to survey the art scene in Europe. Later in his career, his fascination with foreign art and his own entrepeneurial interests led him to become an outspoken opponent of tariffs on imported art.
Kurtz's personal life changed significantly in 1884 when he met Julia Stephenson, a physician's daughter and fledging art student from Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Throughout their courtship and after their marriage the couple was frequently separated. Consequently, they wrote lengthy letters which document not only their personal relationship but also Kurtz's aspirations and activities in the art world.
With his appointment as one of Halsey C. Ives's (1847-1911) chief assistants of the Fine Arts Department of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1891, Charles Kurtz's career achieved international stature. Among the most notable European artists he introduced into this country through circulating exhibitions were the Glasgow School, the Danish School, the Hungarian artist, Mihaly Munkacsy, and the subject of his final exhibition, the Spanish artist, Sorolla.
Throughout his life, Kurtz was plagued by health problems and, in 1899, illness forced him to resign as Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the United States for the Paris Exposition of 1900. Throughout the following decade, his work was increasingly interrupted by ill health. His death in 1909 at the age of 54, while sudden, was not entirely unexpected. However it most certainly cut short a cosmopolitan career that encompassed virtually every aspect of the art world and the pertinent issues of the day.
Kurtz is remembered for his editorial work with the National Academy of Design; as Art Director for the Southern Exposition, 1883-1886, and the St. Louis Exposition, 1894-1899 (where he introduced the Glasgow School of Painting); and as Assistant Chief/Director for the World's Columbian Exposition, the 1900 Paris Exposition, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. He was also director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.
1855 -- Charles McMeen Kurtz born
1876 -- receives B.S. degree from Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania
1876-78 -- studies at the National Academy of Design, N.Y. with Lemuel Wilmarth and William Morgan; writes a column, "New York Letters," for The Courant published in New Castle, Pennsylvania
1878 -- edits a small daily paper published during a "National Camp Meeting for the promotion of Holiness" held that summer in New Castle, Pa.; its critical stance resulted in his public denouncement and earned him a reputation as a journalist in western Pennsylvania; receives M.A. from Washington and Jefferson College
1878-79 -- becomes the local editor of The Guardian of New Castle
1879 -- publishes The Daily Reporter, a financial success
1881 -- publishes the first issue of National Academy Notes; travels in Europe, spending time in England, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France (Paris)
1881-82 -- prepares Illustrated Notes for Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition
1882 -- writes "Art Notes" in The New York Tribune and resigns Dec. 23rd
1882-83 -- accepts position to write for Music and Drama, a new daily paper
1883 -- becomes the general manager of the American Art Union; exhibits a large collection of Art Union paintings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Louisville, Ky., where they became part of the Southern Exposition's first great art display
1883-86 -- accepts offer to become Director of the Art Department, Southern Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky
1884 -- edits Art Union magazine until December; applies for position to head the Art Department of the New Orleans World's Fair in September
1884-86 -- accepts a position offered by the American Art Association; terminates uncongenial relationship in March, 1886
1885 -- writes catalogues for the sale of the George Seney Collection and for the Watts exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; October 1, marries Julia Stephenson (1861-1931), daughter of Dr. A. T. Stephenson of Harrodsburg, Kentucky; they had two daughters who survived them: Julia Wilder Kurtz (1889-1977), and Isabella Starkweather Kurtz (1901-1991); another daughter, Elizabeth Stephenson Kurtz (1886-1897), predeceased them
1886 -- terminates employment with the Art Association; daughter, Elizabeth Stephenson Kurtz, born
1886-87 -- manages the circulation of Mihaly Munkacsy's Christ Before Pilot for Charles Sedelmeyer to American venues: New York, Boston, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Nashville, Phildelphia, Indianapolis; tour generates $90,000 in ticket receipts
1889-91 -- February 24, appointed art critic ("Art Notes") and book reviewer for New York Daily Star; later literary and art editor of the Sunday Star
1890 -- writes for the Sunday edition The Press, a New York paper
1891 -- writes for The World; art editor for The New York Recorder; contributes to the New York Truth
1891-93 -- contributes to Chicago Evening Post ; writes artist biographies for The Chicago Graphic, a regional magazine; appointed Assistant Chief of the Department of Fine Arts of the World's Columbian Exposition
1894 -- contributes column, "Art at the Exposition" to St. Louis Life
1895 -- tours Denmark, Scotland, and France during the summer on behalf of the St. Louis Exposition
1894-99 -- appointed Director of the Art Department of the St. Louis Annual Exposition
1896 -- elected member of The Japan Society, London
1897 -- daughter, Elizabeth (Daisy), dies
1898 -- receives a diploma and medal "in recognition of valuable services in connection with the Fine Arts Exhibit" from the directors of the Trans-Mississippi International Exposition, Omaha
1899 -- appointed Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the United States Commission to the Paris Exposition of 1900; resigned in July due to ill health
1901-04 -- appointed Assistant Chief of the Department of Art of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, August
1901 -- daughter, Isabella Starkweather Kurtz, born
1902 -- receives honorary Ph.D from Washington and Jefferson College "in recognition of distinguished ability and services as an art critic and writer"
1905 -- receives the cross of the Order of Merit from Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria; appointed Director, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, in January; exhibits Glasgow paintings at Albright Art Gallery from November until the following April
1906 -- writes Academy Notes, a bulletin pubished by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and the Albright Art Gallery; father, D.B. Kurtz, dies in Newcastle, Pennsylvania
1907 -- accused of importing German pictures free of duty for exhibition purposes and then selling some for profit
1908 -- Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree conferred by Washington and Jefferson College
1909 -- Charles M. Kurtz dies in Buffalo, New York on March 21
1910 -- Sale of the private collection of Charles M. Kurtz at auction, Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, February 24-25
1931 -- Widow, Julia Stephenson Kurtz dies October 30
1977 -- Daughter, Julia Wilder Kurtz, dies
1991 -- Daughter, Isabel Starkweather Kurtz, dies in Buffalo, N.Y.; remaining Charles M. Kurtz Papers bequeathed to the Archives of American Art and the National Academy of Design, New York
The St. Louis Exposition/Halsey C. Ives papers in the Archives of American Art contain material relating to Charles M. Kurtz.
Additional Charles Kurtz papers, 1870-1910, including 340 letters which discuss exhibitions, sales of art, patronage, atelier visits, and submissions to publications, and letters to his parents in which he discsses the art market and art world new; as well as manuscripts, notebooks, a diary, and printed ephemera relating to exhibitions and publications, are available at the Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Los Angeles, California.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel 4912) including Charles Kurtz's Glasgow painting diary. The loaned diary was returned to the lender and can now be found at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. This material is not described in the collection container inventory.
For many years, the Kurtz Papers were thought to have been destroyed in a fire. Isabel Kurtz, a school teacher who lived with her older sister in Buffalo, New York, was vague when initially approached about her father's papers by Archives Regional Director, Robert Brown in the mid-1980s. However upon her death in 1991, her will revealed that the papers were indeed in her house in Buffalo and the bulk of them were bequeathed to the Archives of American Art. Paintings and a diary relating to the Glasgow School were given to the Yale Center for British Art. That diary has subsequently been duplicated on microfilm and is now also available in the Archives. Scorch marks on some of the papers and also on the paintings given to Yale suggest that there was indeed a fire. The material that was not bequeathed to the Archives included duplicates of printed documents along with books from the Kurtz library and a coin collection, all of which were dispersed in an estate auction that was held in Buffalo in 1991.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.
With the exception of material filmed on Reel 4912 the Charles M. Kurtz papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Permission from Yale University is required to quote, publish or reproduce from papers filmed on Reel 4912.
The Kuhns kept meticulous records of Walt Kuhn's art work. Their original file folders contain detailed annotations about paintings and sculptures, along with art reproductions, tracings, and other documentation. Annotations include information such as the model used for the work; where the work was created, exhibited, reproduced, and sold; and critical response. Some of the files also contain correspondence, clippings, exhibition catalogs, announcements, and bills of sale. Tempera paintings, watercolors, etchings, and lithographs are documented in a bound ledger filed at the end of this series.
Occasionally files contain other unique documentation. The unusually thick file for "Still Life with Red Bananas," for example, contains printed materials related to a controversy over the 1946 international exhibition of the State Department's collection of modern art, which was cancelled in response to conservative reaction. The collection was sold as "surplus" by the War Assets Administration, and the public outcry that ensued is documented in clippings in this file.
In addition to photographs of works of art, photographs in this series include publicity photographs of Edna St. Vincent de Millay standing before the painting "Mario" in her home and other installation views. Original sketches can be found in the files for Lahr's portrait and the paintings "Zuleika," "Absolom's House," "Beach Scene," "Green Apples with Gray Curtain," "Interior," and "Maternity." Miscellanous tracings and watercolor sketches of paintings whose original file folders are not present are filed at the end of this series.
Files are arranged alphabetically by the the artwork's title or by a key word in the title, grouping files for clown paintings, girl paintings, pine tree paintings, etc. This arrangement has been preserved, although it is idiosyncratic. Files for individual works have been grouped together in general alphabetical files. Large files are filed and listed individually. Execution dates of artwork for some files are provided in parentheses after the file headings and should not be confused with record dates.
Original files are very brittle and have torn edges and missing fragments. Microfilm of the collection made in 1965 may show the file before such damage occurred (reels D242A-D242B). Additional material related to the provenance of Kuhn's artwork is filed in Financial Records and elsewhere in the collection. See individual series descriptions for more details. A record book documenting Vera Kuhn's art jewelry is in Photographs and Scrapbooks.
See the Index for a list of selected correspondents from 4.3 General Correspondence with cross-references to this series and 4.4: Selected Gallery and Exhibition Files.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Walt Kuhn Family papers and Armory Show records, 1859-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The papers of art conservator and historian, engineer, and professor Daniel Varney Thompson (1902-1980) are dated 1848-1979, with the bulk of the material dated 1923-1979. The collection measures 10.1 linear feet and consists of biographical material, correspondence, subject files, writings, artwork, printed material, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of art conservator and historian, professor, engineer, and writer Daniel Varney Thompson (1902-1980) are dated 1848-1979, with the bulk of the material dated 1923-1979. The collection measures 10.1 linear feet and consists of biographical material, correspondence, subject files, writings, artwork, printed material, and photographs.
Biographical information includes certificates and diplomas, passports, and wills. Correspondence documents Daniel Varney Thompson's personal and professional life. Personal correspondence centers heavily on family members including his brother, the composer Randall Thompson. Professional correspondence concerns Thompson's academic career, research, writing, and work as a technical consultant and engineer. Among the correspondents are colleagues from Harvard, Yale, the Courtauld Institute, publishers, and academic and technical journals, in addition to corporate clients.
Subject files are comprised of varying correspondence, printed matter, photographs, notes and writings relating to Thompson's areas of interest. Personal and professional subject files include many relating to his research interests and engineering consulting projects. Of particular interest are numerous letters from Bernard Berenson. There is also correspondence with Belle da Costa Greene, as well as files concerning the Kermes beetle (a source of crimson dyes in the middle ages). Food and gardening subject files reflect Thompson's career as a writer and columnist on these subjects.
Writings consist mainly of manuscripts, drafts, research and miscellaneous notes; also included are diaries, poems, miscellaneous items, and a music score. Daniel Varney Thompson's personal and professional writings include two diaries, poems, and student writings. Most of his extant writings are on art-related topics, science and technology. Among the notes is an index to medieval manuscripts on craftsmanship in major European libraries was compiled by Thompson in 1935. His work on the subject remains unpublished and his notes are extremely valuable since some of the materials noted were lost in World War II. Scientific and technical notebooks, along with various wirings and reports, document projects undertaken as a technical consultant and engineer. The food and gardening writings are extensive and consist of manuscripts and notes for articles and columns, and for a book-length compilation of these writings. Among the writings by other authors are diaries of his mother and wife, and a music score by his brother, Randall Thompson.
Artwork by Daniel Varney Thompson, Mary Sargent McKean, and Henry Winslow consists of drawings, prints, watercolors, a sketchbook, and an oil painting. Printed material includes articles and book reviews by Daniel Varney Thompson, and items about or mentioning him and his family. Also found are articles and books about art, history, medieval studies, science and technology, and food and gardening topics.
Photographs are of artwork, people, places and miscellaneous subjects. Images of people are mainly Thompson and family members.
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1848-1970s (Box 1, OV 11-12; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1914-1979 (Boxes 1-3; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1925-1979 (Boxes 3-6; 3.0 linear ft.)
Series 4: Writings, 1907-1970s (Boxes 6-9; 2.85 linear ft.)
Series 5: Artwork, 1923-1934 (Box 9, OV 13; 5 folders)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1917-1979 (Box 9; 0.75 linear ft.)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1900-1972 (Box 10; 0.4 linear ft.)
Daniel Varney Thompson (1902-1980) was an art conservator and historian, professor, engineer, and writer. A noted authority on medieval painting, Varney lived and worked primarily in the Boston area and London.
Daniel Varney Thompson was born in New Jersey in 1902. He was the son of Grace Randall Thompson and Daniel Varney Thompson, Sr., a classics teacher at the Lawrenceville School and later headmaster of Boston Latin School. American composer Randall Thompson was his older brother. Following family tradition, Thompson attended Harvard, earning the A.B. in 1922 and A.M. in 1926, focusing his attention on fine arts, physical chemistry, and literature. Daniel V. Thompson stopped using the designation Jr. after his father's death in 1932.
Between 1922 and 1925 Thompson was employed in the Fogg Museum's laboratory devoted to analyzing art materials for the purposes of detecting forgeries, preserving works of art, and devising methods to aid working artists. During this period, Thompson went to Italy as a Sheldon Fellow in Fine Arts, to learn medieval fresco painting techniques from Edward W. Forbes, Director of the Fogg Museum. He also had an opportunity to study medieval and Renaissance painting techniques with Inicio Federico Joni, and while in Italy began life-long friendships with the Forbes family and Bernard Berenson. Thompson served as a technical advisor to the 1924-1925 Second Harvard China Expedition; he traveled to China by way of India, where he studied wall paintings in caves at Ajanta and Elura and researched newly discovered scrolls.
Daniel Varney Thompson was on the faculty of Yale from 1926-1933, where he taught art history, and tempera painting courses, and laid the foundation for the Department of Fine Arts when Yale became a university in 1932. During his time at Yale, Thompson married Cecile [Cecily] de Luze Simonds.
When The American Council of Learned Societies awarded Thompson a research fellowship for the academic year 1933/34, he returned to Europe and surveyed major libraries for materials concerning the history of technology of the arts. Thompson was then invited to be Professor of the History of Technology at the University of London. He was on the faculty from 1934-1946, and also served as research and technical advisor, developing a laboratory at the Courtauld Institute for analysis of art materials.
During World War II, the Courtauld's laboratory - which had facilities for emission, absorption, and x-ray spectrography - was offered to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. To avoid compromising the University's tax-free status, Thompson formed and served as managing director of Daniel Varney Limited, a private company which leased the premises and equipment. From 1940 to 1945, the company was operated in the name of the Courtauld Institute, employing 200 people in tool making, gauge making, fine mechanisms, and development and production of optics instruments. After the war, Daniel Varney Limited shifted its interests to high vacuum diffusion pumps, gas manipulation, and glassblowing.
Upon returning to the United States in 1947, Thompson settled in the Boston area, becoming a technical consultant. He worked on projects for E-Z Mills, Inc., Sylvania Eloctronics, Comstock & Wescott, Inc., and other corporations. He was chief engineer of Jarrell-Ash Co., 1953-1955, redesigning optical instruments, spectrography, and schlieren systems. Between 1955 and 1957, Thompson served as Vice President of Swett & Sibley, involved with the design and development of optical instruments, scanning spectrometers, and densistometers. He then moved to Avco Corporation, where for the next decade he was a Senior Staff Consultant working on optical design in rocket instrumentation. Thompson retired from his engineering career in 1967.
Daniel V. Thompson wrote and published extensively. Art-related writings include translations and a monograph published by Yale University Press, and numerous articles and reviews. Translations are: Cennino Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte (3 volumes: Text of Il Libro dell'Arte, 1932; The Craftsman's Handbook, 1933; and The Practice of Tempera Painting, 1936), and An Anonymous Fourteenth Century Treatise ( De arte illuminadi) (with his student George Heard Hamilton), 1936. A monograph, The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting (foreword by Bernard Berenson) appeared in 1936.
Most of Thompson's scientific and technical writings are unpublished and relate to projects for which he served as a consulting engineer.
Soon after retiring, Thompson began a new career that he continued for the remainder of his life. A serious cook and long-time gardener, he began writing about these topics, producing weekly columns that were published by newspapers from Maine to Chicago and contributing articles to Gourmet, Horticulture, and similar periodicals. Thompson also lectured to garden clubs and judged garden and flower competitions.
Daniel Varney Thompson died on January 4, 1980, following an automobile accident in Malaga, Spain.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews conducted with Daniel V. Thompson by Robert Brown, September 25, 1974-November 2, 1976. There are also three letters from Thompson to his sister-in-law Edith Simonds Moore.
The Daniel Varney Thompson papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in increments between 1974-1981 by Mr. Thompson and his estate.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Daniel Varney Thompson papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.