Date of Degree
Katherine E. Manthorne
Jane Mayo Roos
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
Charles M. Kurtz, the first director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, spent most of his life executing his personal motto, Amorem Arti Promovere, "To Promote the Love of the Arts." During his lifetime he worked as a journalist, the editor and publisher of the National Academy of Design's Academy Notes, the administrator of several circulating exhibitions and the director of the Art Department of the regional Southern Exposition in Louisville and the Annual St. Louis Exposition. He also served as the Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, working only with the occasional assistant rather than a full complement of curators, registrars, secretaries and a public relations staff. Despite the fact that his name endures nearly a century after his death, no biography or thorough study of his life has ever been written, probably because his personal papers were long thought to have been lost.
Considered in its entirety, Kurtz's career raises many issues about the changing nature of the art world in America. Although generally perceived to be a champion of American art, there is considerable evidence that suggests that Charles M. Kurtz's private motivation was perhaps not quite so much patriotic as it was pragmatic, pecuniary and personal. After the death of his daughter in 1991, his carefully guarded correspondence was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art. They reveal that his interest in American art was influenced by a number of factors, including revisions to the tariff laws, exposure to foreign art and new opportunities to present contemporary art to the American public. Likewise, his interest and ability to act as a private dealer for those artists—both European and American—with whom he had cultivated a relationship is also discussed. Consequently, Charles Kurtz's vision was much broader and less biased than is usually thought. This study is a consideration of the various aspects of his career and its implicit impact on the art world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It suggests that Charles M. Kurtz should not be remembered solely for his contributions for the promotion of American art, but rather for fostering an appreciation of art in America.
Graham, Arleen Pancza, "Charles M. Kurtz (1855-1909): Aspects and Issues of a Cosmopolitan Career" (2002). CUNY Academic Works.