Buehr family papers, 1880-1984

A Finding Aid to the Buehr Family Papers, 1880-1984, in the Archives of American Art, by Jetta Samulski

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Born in 1865 in Germany, Karl Albert Buehr was a painter of genre scenes, portraits, and Impressionist landscapes. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Julian Academy in France and the London School of Art. From 1899 to 1902 he lived in Holland, and then spent the first decade of the twentieth century at Giverny, France. A member of the Giverny artists, Buehr exhibited widely in Europe. Buehr became a U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. Cavalry during the Spanish-American War. In Chicago he became a highly respected teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and one of the city's most popular painters. Buehr died in Chicago in 1952.

Karl's wife, Mary Hess Buehr, was born in Chicago in 1871. She was a painter who studied in Holland and France, and held three exhibitions at the Paris Salon. Mary specialized in miniatures and decorative paintings. She was also a lithographer, lecturer, and teacher active in Chicago. She died in Orwell, Vermont, in 1962.

Their children, Kathleen and George F. Buehr, were both artists as well. George, known for his watercolors and collages, was director of museum education and a lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago. He died in Chicago in 1983 at age 78. Kathleen was born in Chicago in 1902. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kathleen was painter and author. Several of her articles are found in the papers, including "My Most Unforgettable Character," published in 1969 in The Reader's Digest.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Buehr family papers measure 0.6 linear feet and date from 1880 to 1984. The collection documents the artistic career of Chicago-based painter Karl Albert Buehr as well as the travels and experiences of his wife Mary Hess Buehr, their children Kathleen Buehr Granger and George F. Buehr, and Karl Buehr's brother-in-law, Will Hess. The collection contains biographical accounts, written family histories, resumes, Karl Buehr's professional and personal correspondence, love letters between Karl and Mary Hess, writings by Buehr family members, clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, and numerous photographs of family members and travels in Holland. Also found is Kathleen Buehr's manuscript "California Notes," which includes several dozen original drawings. Thirty-four pen and ink drawings and reproductions illustrate her "Artists Are People Too" manuscript.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into six series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Names" when they are creators or contributors and under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents.


  • Art, American -- French influences
  • Business enterprises -- Illinois -- Chicago
  • Expatriate painters -- France -- Giverny
  • Impressionism (Art) -- Illinois -- Chicago
  • Painters -- Illinois -- Chicago
  • Portrait painters
  • Landscape painters
  • Art teachers

Types of Materials:

  • Works of art
  • Drawings
  • Photographs


  • Buehr, George Frederick, 1905-1983
  • Buehr, Karl Albert, 1866-1952
  • Buehr, Mary Guion Hess, 1871-1962
  • Granger, Kathleen Buehr


George Buehr's wife, Margo Hoff, donated 0.2 linear ft. of family papers in April, 1986, as part of AAA's Chicago survey project. George Granger, son of Kathleen Buehr Granger, donated the remaining 0.4 linear ft. of material in June, 1986.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed in 1989 by Jean Fitzgerald and a finding aid prepared in July 2004 by Jetta Samulski.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Buehr family 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.

How to Cite this Collection

Buehr family papers, 1880-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1880-1976, undated
(Box 1, 4 folders)

This series contains biographical material about all the members of the Buehr family. There are biographical sketches about Karl Buehr from five printed sources, as well as one written by Kathleen Buehr Granger. There are certificates to Karl Buehr from the National Academy of Design, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the Lycee Montaigne. Included in the series is a George Buehr resume. Mary Hess Buehr wrote a family history, "The Hess Family," and her brother Will Hess wrote a history of his family's business, the Hess Warming and Ventilating Company.

1 (hol) Karl and Mary Buehr Biographical Material, 1880-1976, undated
1 (hol) Buehr Family Biographical Sketches, 1950-1968, undated
1 (hol) "The Hess Family" typescript by Mary Hess Buehr, 1942
1 (hol) "A Half Century of Hot Air" typescript by Will Hess, 1929

Series 2: Correspondence, 1898-1980, undated
(Box 1; 6 folders)

Most of the correspondence is to Karl Buehr concerning art-related matters such as exhibitions, awards, and sales of artwork. The series also contains many letters between family members. One folder contains personal letters from Mary Hess to Karl before their marriage as well as letters early in their marriage. Another folder contains letters written to Karl while he served in the U.S. Cavalry during the Spanish-American War. Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

1 (hol) Letters to Karl Buehr, 1898-1899, undated
(2 folders)
1 (hol) Letters to Buehr Family Members, 1904-1980
(4 folders)

Series 3: Writings, 1915-1970, undated
(Box 1; 6 folders)

This series includes Karl Buehr's handwritten essays, lectures, and notebooks on art technique. The series contains magazine articles by Mary Hess Buehr, Kathleen Buehr Granger, and George Buehr, as well as Kathleen's manuscript, "California Notes." Writings are arranged chronologically.

1 (hol) Essays and Lectures by Karl Buehr, 1915-1916, undated
1 (hol) Writings and Notebooks by Karl and Mary H. Buehr, 1917-1928, undated
1 (hol) "California Notes" by Kathleen Buehr Granger, circa 1948, undated
(3 folders)
1 (hol) Magazine Articles by Kathleen Buehr Granger and George Buehr, 1969, 1970

Series 4: Printed Material, 1899-1984, undated
(Box 1; 7 folders; OV 1)

This series contains a variety of printed materials, including newspapers and magazine clippings from the U.S. and France, exhibition announcements and catalogs for both Karl and George Buehr, reproductions of Karl Buehr's artwork, students' reviews of Karl's artwork, as well as posters from exhibitions by George Buehr and Margo Hoff. Printed Material is arranged chronologically.

1 (hol) Reproductions of Works of Art, Karl Buehr, 1899-1923, undated
1 (hol) High School Students' Art Reviews of Karl Buehr's Artwork, 1901, undated
1 (hol) Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1904-1983, undated
(3 folders)
1 (hol) Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, Karl Buehr, 1921-1984, undated
1 (hol) Exhibition Announcements, George Buehr, 1971-1978
OV 1 Poster Announcing Exhibition by George Buehr, 1968
OV 1 Poster Announcing Exhibition by Margo Hoff, autographed, 1972

Series 5: Photographs, 1886-1947, undated
(Box 2; 8 folders)

The photograph series includes images of the Buehr family, the Hess family, and their distant relatives. More than one hundred photographs from Holland, including fourteen cyanotypes, provide images of peasant farm life during the late nineteenth century. Many photos are posed and some were used as studies for Buehr artwork. The Hess family photographs provide images of an industrial business in Chicago at the turn of the century.

2 (pam) Buehr Family Album Photographs, 1902-1947, undated
(2 folders)
2 (pam) Photographs from Laren, Holland, 1899-1902, undated
(5 folders)
2 (pam) Hess Family and Business Photographs, 1886-1928, undated

Series 6: Artwork, undated
(Box 2; 6 folders)

This series contains artwork by Kathleen Buehr Granger. Watercolors, pencil, ink, and pastel sketches depict landscapes and wildlife of the U.S. Southwest and California, and were created to illustrate her manuscript "California Notes." Original ink drawings and reproductions describe Kathleen Buehr's childhood experiences and Buehr family life in France, and were intended to illustrate her manuscript "Artists Are People Too."

2 (pam) Artwork by Kathleen Buehr Granger to illustrate "California Notes," undated
(2 folders)
2 (pam) Artwork by Kathleen Buehr Granger to illustrate "Artists Are People Too," undated
(4 folders)