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 Dwight Kirsch  (1899 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: Nebraska/Iowa/Colorado      Known for: mod genre, landscape and still life painting

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Frederick Dwight Kirsch is primarily known as Dwight Kirsch

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from Auction House Records.
Mountain Scene
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Pawnee County, Nebraska, Dwight Kirsch was a painter and art museum administrator in Nebraska and Iowa and a key person in both of those states for the acquisition and support of what was then regarded as modernist art.  As an artist, his style has been classified as Regionalist, and he painted landscapes, still lifes, and figures.

He graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1919, and then studied for three years in New York City with Robert Henri and other well-known artists.

In 1924, he became professor of art at the University of Nebraska and was Chairman from 1931 through 1947.  One of his innovations was introducing photography into the curriculum and likely was influenced by his admiration of Alfred Stieglitz of New York City.

In 1936, Kirsch became Director of the University of Nebraska Art Galleries, whose successor is Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln.  He had a profound effect on this institution, acquiring many of its most prestigious works including paintings by Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, and William Glackens.  By then, most of these were established artists, but for much of the country including his own constituents, his choices were considered risky and leading edge.

About fifty years later, George Neubert, then the Director of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, said: "There's not a day goes by in carrying out the duties of director, whether organizing an exhibition, approving a loan request or whatever, that I don't encounter the extraordinary impact that he had on this institution.  His vision, his contribution is at the very core of what we are and what we will be in the future."

In 1950, Kirsch became Director of the Des Moines Art Center, opened in 1948 with a modern building by Eliel Saarinen.  There he is credited with much of the same type of pioneering he did in Nebraska--collecting modernist artists whose work has proven to be strongly representative.  Many of the artists were the same as he had acquired in Nebraska.

In 1958, he left the Des Moines Art Center and became Artist-in-Residence at Iowa State University in Ames.  Personal tragedies--the premature deaths of his wife and son--caused him to become somewhat reclusive in his later years, which he spent in Canon City, Colorado near a niece.

As an individual, he was very well liked and reportedly could relate to anyone because he had an easy, accessible manner, casual dress, and gave lectures that people could understand.

Kyle Macmillan, Omaha Sunday World Herald, November 21, 1999

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