"Trio", Walt Kuhn, Oil on canvas, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Collection
Today we celebrate Walt Kuhn (October 27, 1877 – July 13, 1949) and what would have been his 134th birthday with this spotlight on his 1937 painting, “Trio.”
“Trio” is an example of this innovative American modernist’s inclination toward obscure and vaudeville subject matter. Kuhn is best known for his seminal role in the 1913 Armory Show, which brought European avant-garde art to many Americans. In this particular piece, he used the characters’ guise as a means of personal expression. The three acrobats were executed from live models, two of whom were professional acrobats known as the Roma Brothers. The characters in “Trio” are dissociated from their conventional cheerfulness, stereotypical of the roles they play in circus acts.
“Trio” is emblematic of his latter work on portraits of circus characters, which was personally inspired by the development of his personal obsession with circus performances. This work predates his mental breakdown which was prefaced by his near-daily attendance of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Kuhn’s death remains shrouded in mystery with accounts of attempted suicide; he eventually suffered from a perforated ulcer which caused an immediate death.
Despite the difficulty of his last years, Kuhn was a prolific artist who influenced many different artistic mediums, from painting to printmaking, sculpting to cartooning.
“Trio” is on view now on the first floor.