Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Taylor Museum for Southwestern Studies

Colorado Springs, CO



Walt Kuhn: An Imaginary History of the West


Walt Kuhn (1877-1949) was one of the organizers of the landmark 1913 Armory Show in New York, which brought modern art movements then developing in Paris to the attention of Americans. A colorful personality as well as a significant figure in modern art, Walt Kuhn first painted the American West on a trip to California in 1900.

Images from left to right: The Council Table; Medicine; The Longhorn Saloon; The Wild West

In 1918 he began An Imaginary History of the West, an important series of abstract figure paintings. From the austere "PowWow" to the grisly humor of "Bar Room Fight," the expressive "Combat," this series of thirty small, jewel-like paintings captures the romance of the West and the imaginations of young and old alike. For exhibit dates please call the Taylor Museum.

In the Foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Fred S. Bartlett, Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at that time, wrote:

"Walt Kuhn once commented that the first picture he ever painted and got paid for was a back-bar decoration in a San Francisco saloon. This must have been around 1900, when he made his first trip west.. Although the subject matter of this first commercial enterprise remains unknown it very likely was a picture of the "wild and woolly west," for this was a major interest to him from his earliest years and remained so all through his life.

"This interest culminated in a series of twenty-nine paintings which Kuhn called his Imaginary History of the West, all painted between 1918 and I920. These were presented to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center by the artist's widow and daughter, Vera and Brenda Kuhn, in 1950, following his death in 1949."

Read more on Kuhn from The Butler Institute of American Art. Also see the Walt Kuhn, Kuhn Family Papers, And Armory Show Records Online.


rev. 11/29/06

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