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Charles Courtney Curran was a noted American Impressionist and leading member of the Cragsmoor art colony. He developed an atmosphere of ease and charm in his paintings, featuring graceful female figures in delicately rendered surroundings. While specializing in genteel domestic scenes, his artistic output spanned portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and street scenes.


Curran was born in Hartford, Kentucky, in 1861 as the son of an amateur painter. After growing up in Sandusky, Ohio, he began his artistic training at the Cincinnati School of Design. He then left for New York City to train at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. He enrolled at the Académie Julian, Paris, in 1889 as a pupil of Benjamin Constant, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, and Henri-Lucien Doucet. Curran also became deeply influenced by the Parisian genre painter Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret.


The National Academy of Design first exhibited Curran’s work in 1883, and he was included in subsequent annual exhibitions until his death in 1942. He was awarded the Academy’s Thomas B. Clarke prize in 1893, and later received the first Altman prize in 1920. One of the most active members of the organization, he became an Academician in 1904, and served as a recording secretary and corresponding secretary-treasurer over the ensuing years.

After putting down roots in New York in 1891, Curran also took a leading role in the Cragsmoor art colony. Here, his style reached its full development, and he immersed himself in the community as a church deacon and theatrical performer. Curran also maintained numerous teaching positions, and was an instructor at the National Academy of Design, the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, the Art Students League, and Cooper Union. In keeping with the fluid qualities of his works, he encouraged students to draw directly from the body rather than work from antique casts.


Curran was an award-winning member of the Society of American Artists, the Salmagundi Club, and the National Arts Club. He had the honor of serving on the United States Commission to the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and the following year acted as Assistant Director of Fine Arts at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. His lengthy and prolific career marked him as a gifted Impressionist painter, and key figure in the New York art world.


Written by Zenobia Grant Wingate