Charles Courtney Curran

American, 1861 - 1942
Early American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran was memorable both for his elegant interior and exterior portraits of women and children, as well as for his leadership role at the Cragsmoor Art Colony. Often compared to fellow American Impressionists Mary Cassatt, Frank Benson, and Edmund Charles Tarbell, Curran’s iconic paintings featuring graceful young women in flowing dresses set against the vast expanse of nature captivated art critics and the public, as well as his contemporaries. Curran’s impressionistic techniques utilizing loose brushstrokes and a vivid palette combined with his nostalgic subject matter encapsulate the leisurely summer beauty of Cragsmoor. Charles Courtney Curran was born in 1861 in Hartford, Kentucky and raised in Sandusky, Ohio. He studied under Thomas B. Noble at the Cincinnati School of Design for a year before moving to New York City in 1882 where he first attended the National Academy of Design and later studied at the Art Student’s League under Walter Satterlee. At the age of 23, he made his public debut at the Academy of Design, a venue that showcased his work for the remainder of his career. In 1887, Curran’s paintings also began exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy where he continued to show his work for nearly three decades. He left for Paris in 1889 where he studied under Jules Lefebvre at the Académie Julian for two years. Upon his return to the United States, the artist settled in New York and began teaching at the Pratt Institute and Art Students League. In 1903, fellow artist and friend Frederick Dellenbaugh invited Curran to visit Cragsmoor. A bourgeoning summer art center started by Edward Lamson Henry, Cragsmoor was located along a plateau in the Shawangunk Mountains of the Hudson River Valley. Captivated by the landscape and creative atmosphere and Curran set up a summer home and studio. He soon established himself as a central figure of the art colony, painting, teaching, and with the help of his wife, editing the student art publication Palette and Brush during his summers in Cragsmoor. While he is best known for his sweeping landscapes featuring young women and children, Curran also painted many portraits and created a series of works featuring the Imperial Temples of Peking. For nearly thirty years, until his death in 1942, Curran split his time between Cragsmoor and New York City. He continued to paint and maintained teaching positions at Pratt Institute, Cooper Union, and the National Academy. In addition to his role as a leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony, Curran remained an active member of the American Water Color Society, Society of American Artists, and the National Arts Club.
Charles Courtney Curran Paintings
A native of Hartford, Kentucky, Charles Courtney Curran studied briefly at the Cincinnati School of Design in 1881. After moving to New York City the following year, Curran enrolled at the National Academy of Design and continued his training at the Art Students League. He received early recognition and held his first exhibition at the age of twenty-three at the National Academy in 1883. This marked the beginning of a lifelong association with the Academy, where Curran proceeded to exhibit in an impressive sixty-one consecutive annual exhibitions, as well as nearly every winter exhibition from 1906 to 1932.

Between 1889 and 1891 Curran studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. His exposure to Impressionism there undoubtedly influenced him, for he painted in a brighter palette and paid attention to effects of light and atmosphere in his subsequent work. Upon his return to America, Curran divided his time between New York City and his house and studio near Cragsmoor, New York, where he was a leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony. Founded by Edward Lamson Henry in 1883, the Cragsmoor Colony became a favorite retreat for landscapists, who were attracted to its clear views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Curran first stayed there as a guest of artist and writer Frederick Dellenbaugh in 1903, and eventually built his summer home there in 1910. William Gerdts writes “Cragsmoor enjoyed a new influx of ‘permanent visitors’ in the early years of this century. Charles Courtney Curran was undoubtedly the most renowned of this second generation.” Curran remained associated with Cragsmoor into the late 1930s.

At Cragsmoor Curran “specialized in rendering lovely women out-of-doors, sometimes in floral settings and more often set high upon cliffs.” In Mountain-Top Clouds, Curran does include women on a peak with patches of flowers springing up through the rock, but he focuses on another favorite subject of his, the voluminous clouds above. He clearly took particular pleasure in rendering the wisps and tendrils of clouds that break up the patches of intense blue sky.

Curran exhibited his paintings at the National Academy of Design, where he was elected academician in 1904. He also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Brooklyn Art Association, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Boston Art Club, in addition to numerous international expositions. His artwork is housed in important public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, among many others.
Charles Curran was born in 1861. He studied art extensively; at the Cincinnati School of Design, Art Students League, National Academy of Design and Academie Julian from 1888-90. His years spent in Paris influenced his use of light and form. Curran is truly responsible for the rebirth of the genre painting tradition of the late 19th century. His first exhibit was held at the age of 23, at the National Academy of Design. Curran was the leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony in upstate New York, along with his wife who co-edited an art student publication. Curran is perhaps best known for his combination of sweeping vistas with whimsical, delicate female figures, such as "Two Women in a Landscape" (1916). Curran was a prolific painter who won many awards for his figurative works. Curran died in 1942.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery,
Charles Courtney Curran, a prolific and popular painter all his life, was among the artists responsible for the rebirth of the genre tradition in late nineteenth century American art. Born in 1861 in Hartford, Kentucky, Curran spent his formative years in Sandusky, Ohio, where his family had moved in 1881. Curran studied briefly at the Cincinnati School of Design.

The following year, Curran moved to New York City. There he enrolled in the National Academy of Design, worked under the tutelage of Walter Satterlee, and later attended the Art Students League. Curran achieved early artistic recognition. He had his first exhibit at age 23 at the National Academy of Design. Five years later, the Academy awarded him Third Hallgarten Prize for A Breezy Day (date and location unknown), designated most "meritorious painting in oil." Curran's two years of study at the Academie Julien in Paris, from 1889 to 1891, likely influenced the impressionistic use of form and light in his subsequent works.

He spent the remainder of his life dividing his time between New York City and his house and studio in the Cragsmoor region of New York State. Curran died in l942.

In addition to teaching art and painting, Curran was a leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony. For several years, he and his wife co-edited the art student publication Palette and Brush.

During his life, Curran received much recognition for his figure paintings, but his style was not limited exclusively to that genre. The widely traveled artist also painted landscapes, portraits and a series of views of the Imperial Temples of Peking.

He is perhaps best known for those works which combine sweeping vistas of the Cragsmoor area with the almost whimsical delicacy of the female form, as in Two Women in a Landscape (1916, location unknown).

Allied Art Association
American Water Color Society
National Academy of Design
Lotos Club
MacDowell Club
National Arts Club
New York Water Color Club
Salmagundi Club
Society of American Artists

Public Collections:
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Art Association of Richmond, Indiana
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts
Fort Worth Art Museum, Texas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio
Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
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