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 Julius Theodore Kunkely  (1829 - 1903)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: Landscape painting

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Julius Theodore Kunkely
An example of work by Julius Theodore Kunkely
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

Julius Theodore Kunkely (December 1829 – April 3, 1903)
AKA “Julius Kunkeli”

Painter and illustrator.  Born in December of 1829 in the Kingdom of Saxony (located today in present day Germany).  The proper spelling of his surname is Kunkely, as numerous signed examples of his works has proven.

It is almost certain that he at least began his training in Europe, probably in one of the German states.  The city of Dusseldorf is a likely candidate, as it was a center of artistic training by that point.  Kunkely’s departure from that region of Europe may have had to do the widespread revolutions that began in the spring of 1848.  He arrived in America that year, later becoming a naturalized citizen.  He appears to have only lived in New York City during the many years he resided in the United States.  While here, he met and married a woman named Sophia Johanna (1832 – 1909) in 1858 and had three children.  In a move that was unusual for the day, they divorced sometime prior to 1880.

Kunkely is consistently listed as an “artist” both in U.S. censuses and New York City directories, but exactly what kind of artist he was is not revealed by those sources.  His works, which include numerous gouaches depicting bucolic landscapes, seascapes, and a number of military scenes related to the American Revolutionary War, American Civil War, and the Franco-Prussian War, leads to the conclusion that he was earning at least part of – if not all of his living – from illustration work.  The bright colors and crisp lines of his paintings were ideally suited for reproduction by companies creating mass produced prints and calendars using chromolithography.

At least some of his works were printed by the Gray Lithography Company of New York, which was founded by Olin D. Gray (1854 – 1938) of Remsen, NY.  Gray was known for working with many different American artists to publish cards, calendars, posters, prints, etc., based upon their original works.  One of Kunkely’s scenes entitled “Saved” – depicting a St. Bernard protecting a young kitten from two other dogs – was published after his death by Gray Lithograph for distribution by the Currier-Boyce Company of Chicago.

According to some sources, Kunkely was an artist associated with the finger lakes region of New York State, though that relationship is unclear.  He may have vacationed in that area during the summer months when many of New York City’s artists traveled to mountain and coastal resorts to escape the oppressive heat and filth of the city.  The rolling landscapes depicted in his paintings may relate to that region.

Following his divorce, Julius Kunkely lived at 300 East 59th Street and by 1900 was residing at 514 East 83rd Street with one of his daughters.  He was apparently still working, as he continued to list his occupation as ‘artist.’  Julius Theodore Kunkely died in Manhattan on Friday, the 3rd of April 1903 at the age of seventy-three.  It is not clear where he was buried.

Kunkely was not known to have exhibited his works at any major institutions during his lifetime, and his works are not known to be in any  public institutions. The largest number of his works reside in private collections throughout the United States.

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