Van Gogh •
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Walt Kuhn was born in New York, but he began his career in art as a cartoonist
in San Francisco, contributing to both western and eastern
publications. He went abroad in the first decade of the twentieth century, but did not study art formally, preferring to spend his time looking at the work that European artists were doing. He returned to the United States in 1908 and taught at the New York School of Art. In 1912, he was elected secretary of the Association of American Painters and, with Arthur B. Davies, was most active in the organization of the Armory Show of 1913. His paintings prior to this period are akin to the realistic modes of the Ashcan School, but after the Armory Show he began to show the influence of Matisse in his use of controlled curves, elimination of detail, Art Nouveau motifs, and overall patterns of composition; while from Picasso he borrowed the aloof melancholy of the works of the Blue Period. His own definitive style, during the 1920's, was completely realistic and warm in color, with strong patterns against pale grounds.
For many years Kuhn was art adviser to John Quinn and then to Lillie P. Bliss, whose collection formed one of the important nuclei of the Museum of
Modern Art in New York. Kuhn taught again in the years 1926-27, this time at the Art Students League. His name has become synonymous with paintings of circus and theatrical performers and with his successful efforts on behalf of modern art movements.