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 Walter Egel Kuhlman  (1918 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: California/Minnesota      Known for: figurative-non ob abstract expressionist painting, prints

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Ad Code: 3
Walter Egel Kuhlman
from Auction House Records.
UNTITLED (NO.7-57)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Walter Kuhlman established his reputation as a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist school of painting.  This movement, hailed by historians, critics and artists as "the triumph of American art", had its roots on the West Coast at the legendary California School of Fine Arts, now known as the San Francisco Art Institute.  It was here, during its "golden years," that an experimental and highly dynamic program was initiated by a small group of teachers and students under the influential leadership of CFA's Director, Douglas MacAgy.

The faculty he recruited included luminaries such as Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Elmer Bischoff and David Park.  They charted new territory and encouraged their students to do so as well.  At the same time on the East Coast, artists such as Jackson Pollack, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, together with the New York media had begun to establish the United States as the leader of the international art world.

The flowering of the CSFA from 1945 to 1950 represented one of the most far reaching developments for both Bay Area art and American Art as a whole.  Most of the students entering the school were, like Kuhlman, "men in their middle or late twenties," and they had a maturity, sometimes hardened by wartime experiences, seldom found in previous generations of art students.

Says Kuhlman, "Working at the CSFA turned our lives from unbearable tension and anxiety to an almost unbelievable enthusiasm.  We worked hard.  Played hard.  Drank lots of wine.  Listened to great jazz and poetry.  My constant companions during these years were Frank Lobdell, Richard Diebenkorn, Budd Dixon, Jack Jefferson, John Hultberg and Peter Shoemaker."

In 1950, Kuhlman and Lobdell finished the last year of their G.I. benefits in Paris where they shared a studio at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.  In 1951, they exhibited their work in the celebrated "Salon de Mai" show at the Petit Palais - the first American Abstract Expressionist paintings shown.

Just when the pressures of work, family and economic survival became most difficult, Dr. Grace McCann Morley, founder and director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, submitted Kuhlman's name for the prestigious international Chicago Graham Fellowship for $10,000 which was to be used for residency.  From then on "it was universities until tenured retirement from Sonoma University."

Information submitted by: George Krevsky
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Walter Egel Kuhlman studied at St. Paul School of Art, Minnesota from 1936-1939 and the University of Minnesota, from 1937 receiving his B.A. in 1941.  He was an instructor at the St. Paul School of Art, 1940-1941; studied at Tulane University, New Orleans, 1945-1946; California School of Fine Arts, 1947-1950; taught at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, summer, 1948; awarded Graham Fellowship, 1957. Taught at California School of Fine Arts, 1957-1960; University California, Berkeley, summer, 1959; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1960-1965; Stanford University, 1966-1967; University of Santa Clara, 1967-1969; Sonoma State University, 1969-1988.  Awarded Maestro Grant as outstanding California working artist and teacher, 1982.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1940; Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1942; La Jolla Museum of Art, 1943; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1943; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1956, 1964; University of New Mexico, 1963, 1964, 1965; De Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, 1969; Sonoma State University, 1969, 1988; Carlson Gallery, San Francisco, 1989.

Selected Group Exhibitions:
67th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1948; Second Annual Exhibition of Painting, California Palace of The Legion of Honor 1948; 68th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1949; 69th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1950; 70th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1951; 73rd Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1954; PACIFIC COAST ART, IIIrd Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1955; 75th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1956; CALIFORNIA PAINTERS, 40 Painters, Municipal Art Center, Long Beach, 1956; 76th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1957; 77th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1958; Winter Invitational, California Palace of The Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1960; The Oakland Museum, California. A Period of Exploration: San Francisco 1945-1950; 1973; San Francisco Museum of Art, Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era 1976; Laguna Art Museum & San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, 1996.

Literature:
Henry Hopkins, Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era; Susan Landauer, The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism; Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980; The Art of California, Selected Works from the Collection of The Oakland Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Painting and Sculpture Collection; David Carlson, Abstract Expressionists, An Historical Survey of Northern California Artists, Catalogue No. 1.

Source:
David J Carlson, Carlson Gallery, California. Carlson's specialty is Post-World War II California artists, and at the time of this posting, he was preparing a catalogue for a 2004 traveling exhibition of these artists to several California museums.

Added note:
Walter E. Kuhlman died at the age of  90 on March 20, 2009 in the San Franciso Bay Area.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Walter Egel Kuhlman (1918-2009)

The painter and printmaker Walter Kuhlman (1918-2009) is closely associated with the San Francisco Bay Area, where he spent most of his life and career.  Kuhlman was one of the pioneers within the distinctive San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, which emerged in the late1940s and flourished through the 1950s.  Starting about 1960, Kuhlman’s work evolved toward an expressive figurative style.  Painting was Kuhlman’s primary passion, but he also created many fine works on paper, including abstract expressionist prints and figurative monotypes.

Walter Kuhlman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He attended the St. Paul School of Art (graduating in 1939) and the University of Minnesota (BA, 1941).  Kuhlman established a reputation as a notable young artist, exhibiting regionally and at the New York World’s Fair.  His early career was interrupted by military service in World War II.

In 1947, Kuhlman enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA; now San Francisco Art Institute). CSFA faculty and students alike – including Kuhlman – embraced Abstract Expressionism. Their distinctive work established San Francisco as a recognized center apart from the New York School.  In 1950-1951, the artist studied in Paris, where his works appeared in some of the first European exhibitions to feature American Abstract Expressionism.

Kuhlman continued his focus on Abstract Expressionist painting through the decade of the 1950s.  His work was included in the US exhibition at the 1955 International Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Kuhlman received a fellowship in 1957 from the Chicago-based Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.  This prestigious award helped solidify Kuhlman’s national reputation.

Starting about 1960, the artist became drawn toward figurative imagery.  He developed a very personal painting style through which to create images that conveyed philosophical, spiritual, and artistic themes

The artist taught for various periods at several San Francisco area institutions, including CFSA, University of California at Berkeley, Santa Clara University, and Stanford University.  He was on the faculty of the University of New Mexico from 1960 to 1965, and then at Sonoma State University (California) from 1969 until his retirement in 1988.  The California Arts Council named Kuhlman an “Outstanding Artist and Teacher” in 1982.

Kuhlman was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1995, and his papers were accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.  The artist died in San Raphael, California, in 2009.

The artist’s paintings and prints can be found in many public collections, including:  British Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Menil Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, Phillips Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and Worcester Museum of Art.

Information provided by Amy Zwicker, daughter-in-law of the artist.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Walter Kuhlman is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism

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