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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: Primarily correspondence and printed material, but also diaries, legal and financial material, notes and writings, photographs, and works of art reflect Kurtz's involvement with the National Academy of Design, the art departments of the Southern, World's Columbian, St. Louis, International Universal (Paris), and Louisiana Purchase Expositions, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, and his activities as a collector and private dealer.
Biographical material consists of reminiscences, certificates, and obituaries. There is approximately 15 feet of professional and personal correspondence, dated 1843-1990. Of particular interest is correspondence with artists: Du Bois F. Hasbrouck, Robert Macaulay Stephenson and Patty Thum; administrators: Luigi Palma di Cesnola, Sara Hallowell, Halsey C. Ives and Charles Ward Rhodes; dealers: Samuel P. Avery, Alexander Reid, Charles Sedelmeyer; collectors: Thomas B. Clarke, John Wanamaker; organizations: American Art Association, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; family and friends, notably his wife, Julia Stephenson Kurtz, father, D.B. Kurtz and the Starkweather family.
Requests for submissions of works of art are forms, and a few letters, returned by artists describing the works they wish to exhibit for the Southern Exposition, 1886, the St. Louis Expositions, 1893-1897, and exhibits of the Glasgow School at St. Louis, 1895, and at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1905. Forms are arranged by exposition, and thereunder alphabetically by artist.
Legal and financial material consists of agreements, a will, inventories and price lists of the Kurtz's collection, ledgers, 1877-1886, and lists of art related expenses, 1884-1919.
5 volume of diaries, March - May 1894, January-December 1897, February 1899, March 1899, and January-March 1901 contain detailed entries regarding travels, daily activities, art related events, and expenses. The February 1899 volume describes a sale of paintings from Thomas Benedict Clarke's collection.
Notes and writings include drafts of "Art: Its Evolution, Influence and Mission," lecture notes, writings on theory, aesthetics, criticism, collecting, artists and other topics, short stories, comic operas and other compositions, address books, and exposition gallery plans. Twelve volumes of scrapbooks, 1878-1909, contain clippings of Kurtz's columns from the New York Star, Tribune and other papers, and clippings and printed material regarding the Southern and St. Louis Expositions, and the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, and other art related clippings.
Extensive printed material includes catalogs for various exhibitions, mostly from New York galleries; catalogs for the sale of Kurtz's collection, 1910; clippings; catalogs and other material relating to the Southern, World's Columbian, St. Louis and Louisiana Purchase Expositions; calling cards; brochures; invitations; and programs.
Photographs are of Kurtz, his wife, and others, paintings in his collection, exposition buildings and installations. Some of the photographs were copied from glass plate negatives received with the collection.
Material which was not microfilmed includes a D.B. and E.L. Kurtz letterpress book, 1877-1887; financial material, including cancelled checks and stubs, and an inventory of the library of Kathrine Woodford Simpson; miscellaneous writings by others; and printed material, including non-art related exposition publications, proof sheets for catalogs, National Academy Notes (1889) and Academy Notes, v.1-v.4 (1905-1909), reproductions of works of art, menus, including one for a dinner for Edwin Austin Abbey with a signed photogravure by Abbey and autographs of 19 attendees including James Smillie, Childe Hassam, and Herbert Vos (with caricature), 1902, and other miscellaneous printed matter.
Also, photographs of works of art, and a series of 12 photographs of young men and women taken by Guglielmo Pluschow; and art work, circa 1876-1902, measuring 23 x 35.2 cm or smaller, including sketches, ink illustrations for Academy Notes, a lithograph by Robert J. Wickenden (signed), an engraving, 6 etchings, including 3 etched invitations to gallery openings of Mary Curtis Richardson, Benoni Irwin and others, a portrait of a man by Jay Hambidge (tempera on paper), and 1 landscape painting (oil on canvas).

Biographical/Historical Note

Charles M. Kurtz (1855-1909) was an arts administrator, museum director, collector, private dealer, and editor. Attended Washington & Jefferson College and the National Academy of Design. Began his career as the editor of National Academy of Design's "National Academy Notes," 1881-1889, American Art Union Magazine (1884), and New York Daily Star (1889). He was Director of the Art Department, Southern Exposition (Louisville, Kentucky.), 1883-1886; Assistant Chief, Depepartment of Fine Arts, World's Columbian Exposition; Director, Art Depepartment, St. Louis Exposition & Music Hall Association, 1894-1899 (where he introduced the Glasgow school of painting, a group of Scottish artists and the Danish School in 1895); Assistant Director of Fine Arts, U.S. Commission to the International Universal Exposition, Paris, 1900; and Asst. Chief, Depepartment. of Fine Arts, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904. From 1905-1909, Kurtz was director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (later the Albright Art Gallery), and editor of Academy Notes.


Donated 1988-1991 by Isabel Kurtz, Charles Kurtz's daughter. The painting diary on reel 4921 was lent for microfilming by the Yale Center for Britsh Art in 1994. 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 in which Kurtz has written a history of 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 (reel 4912). 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

Also in the Archives of American Art is Kurtz's Glasgow painting diary which was lent for microfilming (reel 4912). This diary is only available on microfilm.

Location of Originals

  • Glasgow painting diary, Microfilm reel 4912: Original in the Yale Center for British Art New Haven, Connecticut.