Skip to content

Kuhn, Charles L.

    Full Name: Kuhn, Charles L.

    Other Names:

    • Charles Louis Kuhn

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1901

    Date Died: 1985

    Place Born: Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH, USA

    Place Died: Cambridge, Middlesex, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Career(s): curators


    Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum and Chair of Harvard’s Fine Arts Department. Kuhn received his A.B. from the University of Michigan in 1923 and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1929. His dissertation, later published, is on Romanesque painting in Catalonia. In 1930 he was appointed curator of the Germanic Museum (later Busch-Reisinger), replacing founding curator Kuno Francke. Kuhn was responsible for turning a small cultural museum with plaster reproductions into an important art museum. He raised funds for acquisitions and a new building. As early as 1932 he mounted exhibitions of contemporary German painting. Although a medievalist by training, Kuhn was willing to take advantage of the current art market for modern art rather than force acquisitions toward his predilections. The outstanding Expressionist collection the Busch-Reisinger owns today is almost entirely of his doing. As Hitler closed German contemporary-art museums for being what he considered degenerate, Kuhn acquired the works for his museum. When Walter Gropius immigrated to the United States and to Harvard, Kuhn used the architect’s connections and knowledge to secure many Bauhaus colleague’s art work. The personal papers of Gropius and Lyonel Feininger were also acquired under his direction. Kuhn was Editor of the Art Bulletin 1948-9 and Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard between 1949-1953. His most well-known written work is his corpus of medieval and renaissance German paintings in American collections.

    Selected Bibliography

    A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936; German and Netherlandish Sculpture, 1280-1800, the Harvard Collections. Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press, 1965; German Expressionism and Abstract art: the Harvard Collections. With an introductory essay by Jakob Rosenberg. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957; [dissertation:] Catalonian Romanesque Frescoes. Harvard, 1929, published as, Romanesque Mural Painting of Catalonia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930.


    Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 1991, pp. 29-31.


    "Kuhn, Charles L.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: