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 such as Mary Cassatt, Frank Benson, and Edmund Charles Tarbell, Curran’s idyllic 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.
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. A year later, in 1882, he moved to New York City, where he first attended the National Academy of Design and later studied at the Art Students’ 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 to study 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 centre 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.