Skip to main content

Charles M. Kurtz papers, 1843-1990, bulk 1884-1909

Kurtz, Charles M. (Charles McMeen), 1855-1909

Museum director, Dealer, Collector, Editor, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 27.74 Linear feet

Summary: 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

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.

Provenance

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.

Related Materials

Funding

Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.