Artists of Cape Ann: A 150 Year Tradition
by Kristian Davies
1880 - 1968
Max Kuehne lived a vigorous, energetic life both in the studio and outdoors. His Impressionist style and vivid rendering of light and color were a natural development of the open air painting that he practiced for many years of his life. Born in Halle, Germany, Kuehne's family relocated to Flushing, New York in 1894. It was here that Kuehne grew to love the active, outdoor life, spending the summer months on the Hudson River swimming, rowing and sailing.
Compared with other artists of his stature, Kuehne began formal art training late in life, at the age of 27. Despite this, he had the great fortune of studying with two of the finest American painters of the time, William Merritt Chase, a member of The Ten, and Robert Henri, a leading artist of the Ashcan School. The influence on Kuehne of these two painters, these two schools-Impressionist and Realist, during his formative years of training is incalculable. They instilled in him perhaps the best values, techniques and approaches of both styles, acquiring as well a fierce independence and confidence in himself, especially from Henri with whom Kuehne sometimes exhibited in New York.
In 1910, Kuehne left to study and travel in Europe, visiting Germany, England, France, Belgium and Holland. He did most of his traveling on a bicycle, not surprising for a man who loved exercise in the outdoors. Kuehne wrestled with the many different styles and techniques he was exposed to in Europe, from Fauvism to Cubism to the Old Masters; each he studied methodically, embracing and rejecting elements as he continued training. Reflecting the continuous influence of fellow artists like Chase, Hassam, Metcalf and Twachtman, Kuehne had truly developed a mature and original approach to painting by the time he first visited Cape Ann in 1912.
Kuehne's travels continued. He spent three years living in Spain with his German wife, and later lived and worked in New York around painters like Hopper and Glackens. Kuehne returned to Cape Ann again in 1918, and spent every summer there beginning in 1920. He eventually established a studio on Gott St. in Rockport, formerly occupied by Jonas Lie. He maintained an active schedule, becoming something of a legend for his energetic pursuits: painting in the morning, swimming or sailing in the afternoon, then a lunch or picnic outside. Kuehne is remembered having once said that he
came to Cape Ann to paint but he stayed to sail. For a decade, he was content to maintain his independent status, before joining the Rockport Art Association in 1940. Kuehne's finest work was accomplished in the teens and twenties. He appears to have been very hard hit by the Depression years. To make ends meet he developed a career creating decorative screens, panels and furniture in gesso and silver leaf, skills he acquired while making his own frames. . His athletic pursuits helped him live a long life and invigorated his painting, infusing his marine and boating subject matter with a dynamic energy.
(above: Rocky Neck, Gloucester, ca. 1913, oil on canvas, 24 X 30 inches, Private Collection. Photo courtesy of Davies Fine Arts)
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Note: Only one of the pictures accompanying the above biography is included here.
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