Writer and art historian, Avis Berman lives and works in New York City. Berman was a close friend of Katharine Kuh's and is Kuh's literary executor. Berman compiled Katharine Kuh's research materials for the memoir that she was working on at the time of her death; the book was subsequently published as My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legendary Curator in 2006.
Katharine Kuh (1904-1994) was a curator and art dealer born in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1925, where she studied art history under Alfred Barr. In 1928, she earned her Master's in Art History at the University of Chicago. As a graduate student, Kuh developed an interest in modern art, particularly the work of European artists.
Kuh married George Kuh, a businessman in 1930. She and Kuh divorced six years later.
In 1935, she established the Katharine Kuh Gallery in Chicago. The gallery was dedicated to featuring the works of contemporary European and American painters and sculptors, such as Alexander Archipenko, Alexei Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Gyorgy Kepes, Paul Klee, Gaston Lachaise, Fernand Léger, Carlos Mérida, Joan Miro, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso, as well as Charles Biederman, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, and Isamu Noguchi, among others. The Katharine Kuh Gallery was one of the first galleries in Chicago to show photography as art. Kuh held exhibitions for Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, and she also showed the photographs of Gyorgy Kepes and Man Ray.
At the gallery, Kuh taught classes on an informal basis to individuals interested in modern art. During this period, she spent her summers as a Visiting Professor of Art History at the University School of Fine Arts of San Miguel in Guanajuarto, Mexico (1938-1940). With the onset of America's involvement in World War II, Kuh realized that the war would curtail her contact with many of the European artists whose works she had promoted and in 1942, she decided to close the gallery.
In 1943, Katharine Kuh took a position in the public relations department at the Art Institute of Chicago. The following year, Kuh was asked to take over the Gallery of Art Interpretation at the Art Institute. Later she was appointed the Curator of Painting and Sculpture; in this role, she developed a close collaborative relationship with the Director of the Art Institute, Daniel Catton Rich. From 1946-1953, she served as the Editor of the Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly.
She left the Art Institute in 1959 and settled in New York City. She served as an art editor at the Saturday Review and World Magazine. She was also an art consultant for the First National Bank of Chicago from 1968-1979.
Katharine Kuh traveled extensively and often wrote about the art of the places she visited such as Sicily, Turkey, and the Yucatan. In the 1940s Kuh developed an interest in the wood carvings of the Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The University of Alaska awarderd her an honorary doctorate for her efforts to preserve the indigenous artwork of the region's Native Americans.
Her publications on twentieth-century art included: Art Has Many Faces (1951), The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists (1962), Break-up: The Core of Modern Art (1965), and The Open Eye: In Pursuit of Art (1971). Kuh also wrote the catalog that accompanied the "Fernand Léger Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago" (1953). At the time of her death, Katharine Kuh had completed a final draft of her memoir, which she had tentatively titled, Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in an Art Odyssey.
In 1994, Katharine Kuh died in New York City.