Renowned for his penetrating, sometimes even unnerving portraits of circus performers, Kuhn resisted most aspects of the European avant-garde throughout his career. Consequently, art critics often heralded his work as particularly "American." The sitter for this portrait is Albert Driscoll, who modeled for other works by Kuhn. Disguised by make-up and costume, Driscoll’s "real" identity is concealed from the viewer, while his inert seated presence runs counter to the physicality associated with clowning. Driscoll’s deadpan gaze, so contrary to circus joviality, is characteristic of Kuhn’s portrait painting generally.
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Title:Clown with a Black Wig
Artist:Walt Kuhn (American, New York 1877–1949 White Plains, New York)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:40 1/8 × 30 1/8 in. (101.9 × 76.5 cm)
Credit Line:George A. Hearn Fund, 1956
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Walt Kuhn / 1930
the artist, New York (1930–d. 1949; his estate, 1949–56; sold through the Maynard Walker Gallery, New York to MMA)
Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Museum of Art. "Living Artists," November 20, 1931–January 1, 1932, unnum. checklist (as "Clown with Black Wig," lent by the artist) [published in "Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin," vol. 27, January 1932, p. 71].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Feininger, Kuhn, Kuniyoshi, Marin and Nordfeldt," February 24–April 29, 1956, no catalogue.
Arts Club of Chicago. "Hartley, Hopper, Kuhn, Sloan," May 8–June 15, 1956.
Albany Institute of History & Art. "Walt Kuhn," June 11–July 6, 1958.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fourteen American Masters: Paintings from Colonial Times to Today," October 16, 1958–January 4, 1959, no catalogue.
Cincinnati Art Museum. "Walt Kuhn, 1877–1949: A Memorial Exhibition," October 5–November 12, 1960.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.
Tucson. University of Arizona Art Gallery. "Painter of Vision: A Retrospective Exhibition of Oils, Watercolors, and Drawings by Walt Kuhn 1877–1949," February 6–March 31, 1966, no. 57.
Red Bank, N.J. Monmouth Museum Gallery at the Mall. "Three Centuries of Art in New Jersey," November 22, 1969–January 31, 1970, no. 32A.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," November 30, 1970–January 10, 1971, no. 87 (as "Clown with Black Wig").
Saint Louis, Mo. City Art Museum. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," January 28–March 7, 1971, no. 87.
Seattle Art Museum. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," March 25–May 9, 1971, no. 87.
Australia. American Federation of Arts circulating exhibition. February–August 1977.
Fort Worth. Amon Carter Museum of American Art. "Walt Kuhn: A Classic Revival," August 6–September 10, 1978, brochure no. 2.
Omaha. Joslyn Art Museum. "Walt Kuhn: A Classic Revival," September 30–October 29, 1979, brochure no. 2.
Wichita Art Museum. "Walt Kuhn: A Classic Revival," November 18, 1978–January 6, 1979, brochure no. 2.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "Walt Kuhn: A Classic Revival," March 1–April 15, 1979, brochure no. 2.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Walt Kuhn: The Entertainers," January 21–April 5, 1987, unnum. brochure (as "Clown with Black Wig").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "14 Americans," July 16, 1990–January 2, 1991, no catalogue.
New-York Historical Society. "Swing Time: Reginald Marsh and Thirties New York," June 21–September 2, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 49).
Elisabeth Luther Cary. "Work of Living Artists." New York Times (November 29, 1931), p. X13, calls it "Clown With Black Cap".
"Field Notes: Living Artists at the Pennsylvania Museum." American Magazine of Art 24 (January 1932), p. 69.
Paul Bird. Fifty Paintings by Walt Kuhn. New York, 1940, unpaginated, pl. 11, calls it "Clown with Black Wig".
"Additions to the Collections." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (October 1956), p. 41, ill. p. 43, as "Clown with Black Wig".
Emily Genauer. "Works of 2 Americans at Museum: A Retrospective Painting Show." New York Herald Tribune (February 24, 1956), p. 13.
Robert M. Coates. "The Art Galleries: Five and One." New Yorker 32 (March 10, 1956), p. 120.
Robert Beverly Hale. "The American Moderns." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (Summer 1957), ill. p. 24.
James N. Rosenberg. "Open Letter to the Metropolitan." Arts 31 (May 1957), ill. p. 13.
Stuart Preston. "Art: 'Fourteen American Masters'." New York Times (October 16, 1958), p. 41.
S. P. "The Portrait in American Art." New York Times (October 12, 1958), p. SM23, ill.
Henry Geldzahler. American Painting in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1965, pp. 81–82, ill., calls it "Clown with Black Wig".
Thomas N. Maytham. Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Seattle, 1970, p. 135, no. 87, ill. p. 136.
Philip Rhys Adams. Walt Kuhn, Painter: His Life and Work. Columbus, 1978, pp. 129, 146, 256, no. 257, pl. 61, calls it "Clown with Black Wig".
Richard Meyer. "Changing Partners: Richard Meyer on 'Reimagining Modernism' at the Met." Artforum 54 (November 2015), ill. p. 143 (color, installation photo).
Roberta Smith. "A Trans-Atlantic View of Modernism." New York Times (January 9, 2015), p. C30, ill. (installation photo).
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