Edmund Kuehn (1916-2011)

Historic American Painting

Edmund Kuehn was born in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from the Columbus Art School in 1938. He spent the following year at the Art Students League in New York studying with Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Vaclav Vytlacil, and Hans Hofmann. He returned to Columbus to take a curatorial position at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art). At the time, he worked diligently to educate viewers about the outstanding Ferdinand Howald Collection of American Modernist art. Kuehn had a long and fruitful association with the museum, becoming Assistant Director in 1963. Between 1947 and 1962, Kuehn was also an Associate Professor of Drawing and Painting at the Columbus Art School (now Columbus College of Art and Design). He has traveled widely in Europe. His intimate and sophisticated work demonstrates a keen interest in, and understanding of, art history from Italian Early Renaissance pictorial design to multiple-perspective Cubist sculptural forms of the twentieth century.

Kuehn stated that his search is "to find [in the] building blocks of design and color a cool analytic means to tame a given shape to an abundant flow of emotions and creative intent. . . . As a painter I am interested in both the seen and the unseen. To express the things of the visible world I use signs in the shape of simple silhouettes or complex forms divided by light or shade. For the expression of things unseen, those that evolve before the inner eye, I invent designs that create an equivalent syntax." 

Kuehn mastered many media, including oil, acrylic, gouache, collage, and watercolor. In these metaphorical works, he explored a great range of symbolic possibilities which working in an abstract, or semi-abstract, manner allows an artist. Transcending specific details, his works are a sophisticated blend of diverse pictorial signs and painting motifs. Color is key to his works; it simultaneously creates spatial tension and evokes emotion. His energetic line simultaneously creates a sense of movement as well as form. Kuehn's visual poetry is aesthetically challenging and emotionally resonant long after one's initial experience of it.

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