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Subseries 4.2 | A Finding Aid to the Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, 1859-1984, bulk 1900-1949 | Digitized Collection

Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, 1859-1984, bulk 1900-1949

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4.2: Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1901-1949
1.7 linear feet
Box 3-5, OV 39

Walt Kuhn traveled frequently throughout his life for weeks and months at a time, and while away he wrote lengthy letters almost daily, first to his parents from art school in France and Germany in 1901-1903, and from 1909 on to his wife and daughter. His candid and detailed letters to his family reveal otherwise hidden motives and feelings regarding events, career, art, politics, and personalities. Scattered letters to Walt from Vera and Brenda are interfiled chronologically in this subseries, and are especially revealing of Vera's involvement in her husband's career.
Occasionally, Kuhn writes from New York when Vera is out of town. Significantly, these occasions include the winter of 1911-1912, when he writes that "a new society" of artists is forming in reaction to the conservatism of the National Academy of Design, referring to the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, which would go on to mount the Armory Show of 1913. (For Kuhn's letters to his wife dealing directly with the Armory Show, dating from September 1912 to April 1913, see Series 1.1, Armory Show Correspondence, Organizer's Letters.) Other significant New York events described include Kit Kat Balls and Penguin Club events from 1914, 1917, and 1918.
Kuhn advised several important collectors of contemporary art, sometimes traveling with them to make purchases, and his letters home include descriptions of the collections and studios they visit. Collectors include Marie Harriman (especially 1931, see also Selected Gallery and Exhibition Files), John Quinn (1913, 1918, 1919, 1920), and Florida collectors Bert and Olive Taylor, Josephine and Ernest Kanzler, and Paul and Mary "Minna" Mellon (1945, 1947). Conversations with Mary and A. Conger Goodyear and Lillie P. Bliss about the formation of the Museum of Modern Art are related to Vera in letters from 1928 and 1929.
Kuhn's letters home reveal attitudes towards artists and other colleagues, as well as his many personal and professional prejudices. A painting trip to Paris in 1933 brings news of publisher Alfred Skira, and the artists Pablo Picasso, Demetrius Galanis, Man Ray, Cecil Howard, and Andre Derain. Letters from Ogonquit, ME, report on other artists who worked nearby, such as Edwin Booth "Ted" Grossman, Bernard Karfiol, John Laurent, John Carroll, Patsy Santo, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. From 1940 to 1942, a house on Lake Buel in Great Barrington, MA serves has a studio where Kuhn paints and tutors Mary Harriman Rumsey, Lily Emmet Cushing, and Harry Whitney, among others.
As designer and writer of vaudeville productions in the 1920s, Kuhn wrote home from the road about the politics and personalities of backstage life. Casts of his shows included performers Raymond Hitchcock and Lee Morse. During business trips for the Union Pacific railroad from 1936 to 1948, Kuhn wrote letters home about regional art and society circles throughout the Midwest and West. Significant Western contacts include artists Ralph Stackpole, Otis Oldfield, Rinaldo Cuneo, Edward Weston, critic Arthur Millier, collector Walter Arensburg, and film celebrities Cecil B. de Mille and Gary Cooper.
Kuhn's habit of writing to Vera when separated from her continued during his final illness and hospitalization in 1948 and 1949. Letters from this period are marked by his deteriorated mental state.
Illustrations are often found in Kuhn's letters, especially those written during painting trips to Paris, Maine, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Florida. Additional illustrated letters are filed with Artwork and with Photographs and Scrapbooks.
Photographs and photographic postcards are found throughout the series. Among them are photographs of the Gottlieb Reber estate in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1931; Arizona in 1928; and Florida in the 1940s. Many of the photographs mentioned in letters are filed in Series 4.11: Photographs and Scrapbooks.
Significant enclosures include letters from Charles Sheeler in 1922 and 1924, an exhibition catalog and floorplan for a Montross Gallery exhibition of 1914, and an original print of a nude by Kuhn, sent in 1918. Other enclosures were separated and may be filed elsewhere in the Kuhn Family Papers.
Correspondence is arranged chronologically. When undated, the sequence of letters has been determined from their contents, with undated letters placed at the end of the month or year, if known, or at the end of the series. Other personal and business correspondence is filed in General Correspondence and throughout the collection. See individual series descriptions for more detail.
This series has been scanned in entirety.
DescriptionContainer
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1901
3
40
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1902
3
41
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1903
3
42
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1906, 1909
3
43
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1911 August-September
3
44
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1911 October-November
3
45
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1911 December
3
46
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1913 July
3
47
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1913 August-September
3
48
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1914 January-March, undated
3
49
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1915-1917
4
1
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1918
4
2
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1919
4
3
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family (copies), 1919
4
4
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1920, undated
4
5
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1922, undated
4
6
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1923 February
4
7
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1923 June-December
4
8
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family (copies), 1923
4
9
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1924
4
10
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1925, undated
4
11
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1927-1928
4
12
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1929
2 folders
4
13-14
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1931
2 folders
4
15-16
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1932, 1933
4
17
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1934-1935
4
18
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1936, undated
2 folders
4
19-20
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1937
4
21
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1938
2 folders
4
22-23
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1939
4
24
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1940 May-July
4
25
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1940 August
4
26
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1940 September-October
4
27
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1941
4 folders
4
28-31
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1942
3 folders
4
32-34
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1943
4
35
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1944
3 folders
4
36-38
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1945, undated
8 folders
oversized material housed in OV 39
5
1-8
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1946
5
9
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1947, undated
3 folders
oversized material housed in OV 39
5
10-12
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1948, undated
2 folders
5
13-14
Walt Kuhn Letters to Family, 1949, undated
5
15
Oversized Enclosures in Walt Kuhn Letters to Family
Oversized material scanned with Box 5, F1 and F10
OV 39

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.