Though best known as a founder of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, and for his work in organizing the historic Armory Show of 1913 - which introduced American audiences to European modern art - Walt Kuhn is also recognized as an important cartoonist and illustrator and as the creator of many circus-themed paintings and even Western scenes.
Born in Brooklyn in 1877, Kuhn began creating illustrations at an early age and had his first sale to a magazine when he was only fifteen. He took classes at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for six years before heading to California. There, in San Francisco, he was hired to provide illustrations for a magazine, but only two years later Kuhn decided to travel to Europe.
He studied at the Academy Colarossi in Paris and the Royal Academy in Munich, where he studied under Barbizon School master Heinrich von Zugel.
By 1903 he was in New York, again creating illustrations for magazines, and also painting in his free time. He had his first exhibition two years later, and soon received commissions from "Life" magazine.
In 1909 he co-founded the Association of American Painters and Sculptors and traveled Europe to select the works that would be displayed in their first exhibition, the Armory Show of 1913.
In 1925 Kuhn took ill, and turned to teaching while he recovered. He also received a commission from the Union Pacific Railroad to paint the interior of a club car.
His circus paintings are compared to commedia dell'arte portraits from centuries earlier and much of his work is in the collections of dozens of important museums around the United States, including the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.