For the daughers of Jerome and Elaine Kurtz, art was a defining element of their parents’ marriage and the family landscape. “They were always looking, and always interested.” The family homes were filled with art defined by warm tones and organic media, and included paintings by William Scott and Antoni Tàpies and sculpture by Pablo Picasso, George Rickey and Harry Bertoia- works that were as loved and familiar to the family as were Elaine’s own paintings that hung beside them. Freeman’s is honored to present here twenty-six works from the Kurtz Collection in which this diverse collection of cherished works – spanning from Modernism to Minimalism- is presented.
Jerome and Elaine Kurtz both grew up in Philadelphia, and married after he completed law school at Harvard, and she art school at the Philadelphia Museum School or Industrial Art (now The University of the Arts). Jerome went on to become the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service in the Carter Administration and was considered a leading tax expert of his time. Elaine became an accomplished artist with gallery representation in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. Her career was recently highlighted with a retrospective exhibition at Philadelphia’s own Woodmere Art Museum in 2012. The couple’s first shared exposure to the arts occurred soon after they married when the army transferred Mr. Kurtz to Paris in 1956. According to their daughters, these were formative years in which the two first were exposed to Modernism, and may have made their first acquisitions- a Picasso lithograph and a drawing by André Marchand.
After the birth of two children, Elaine decided to pursue further artistic training, and studied for two years at the Barnes Foundation. During this time, the couple enjoyed relationships with Elaine’s fellow art school friends and teaching colleagues such as noted Philadelphia artist Edna Andrade. Close friendships with local artists and friends centered around their “Gourmet Association of Philadelphia” in which members hosted elaborate gourmet meals (on one occasion, Elaine served a turkey that had been covered with gold leaf), announced with elaborate, handmade invitations. When the couple moved to Washington, D.C. in 1966 for Jerome’s position with the Treasury, Elaine studied painting at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where, according to her daughters, she became interested in color field artists like Josef Albers and Mark Rothko.
Through all these years, Elaine kept a separate studio, working diligently at her career. “She was the hardest working person I’ve ever known,” commented one of her daughters recently. Beginning in the 1960s, her work evolved from studios of color and light in careful, linear canvases- often executed in cool and light tones- to later works, “Alluvials,” which are executed in organic, warm earth tones, characterized by the use of sand mixed with pigment which swirls and flows with the force and movement of water or natural elements. Freeman’s is delighted to offer a few examples from both phases of Elaine’s artistic oeuvre in this auction as well.
Represented by the Martha Jackson Gallery, and later the David Anderson Gallery in New York, Elaine would occasionally trade her own works with her dealers. For example, in one remarkable transaction in 1981, Elaine exchanged a few of her own paintings for the Antoni Tàpies and William Scott paintings which are part of this wonderfully diverse and intimate collection. Surely, collage elements of Tàpies’ canvas and Scott’s warm palate spoke to Elaine’s organic interpretation of nature. Elaine died in 2003, and in 2013 Jerome moved from their loft space and into a light-filled apartment on New York’s Lower West Side. There, Elaine’s paintings hung alongside the works by modern and contemporary masters.
Images: Lot 60, William Scott's "Change Back." Estimate $50,000-80,000.
Francois Morelett's "Sphere-Trames" Estimate $15,000-25,000