Nebraska sleuthing suggests artist Kuhn painted over landscape

Thu Oct 6, 2011 1:41pm EDT
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By David Hendee

OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - A few lost threads in the tapestry of the life of a founder of American modernist art apparently are hiding behind a still life in a Nebraska museum.

Artist Walt Kuhn's masterpiece "Apples in Wooden Boat'' was painted over a landscape that disappeared more than 80 years ago, according to sleuthing by the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ghostly images revealed by X-ray, as well as an ink title uncovered on the canvas's frame, strongly suggest Kuhn painted over "Young Pines Among Rocks'' to create the famous still life, said Brandon Ruud, curator of Sheldon's transnational American art.

"The landscape vanished," Ruud said. "This discovery is extremely important to art historians' understanding of Kuhn's output as an artist and understanding modern art in the mid-20th century."

Kuhn, who lived from 1877 to 1947, was an organizer of the landmark Armory Show in New York City. The controversial 1913 exhibition introduced Americans to modern art, particularly the work of European painters Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne and Marcel Duchamp.

A quarter of a century later, Kuhn may have been thinking of his legacy when he created "Apples in Wooden Boat," Ruud said.


Kuhn is noted for his still lifes and psychologically penetrating portraits of circus and burlesque performers, not landscapes.   Continued...