Charles L. Kuhn, Professor of Fine Arts emeritus, will retire in June as Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum of Germanic Culture. He has held the post for 38 years.
Kuhn has developed the Busch-Reisinger from a museum "hopelessly Edwardian" in tone, full of plaster casts of German statuary, into a "remarkably unique collection of original Germanic art," John P. Coolidge '35, Director of the Fogg Museum, said yesterday.
Beginning with only two original works, a portrait of a Kaiser and an old tapestry, Kuhn started to acquire both early and modern German and European art. Kuhn estimates that the collection now contains 10,000 original pieces of art.
Kuhn assembled what some Germanic art authorities have called "the finest collection of twentiethcentury German art in the world," Coolidge said. Kuhn was an opportunist: When Hitler banned "immoral" works by Kirschner and Heckel, Kuhn obtained them when they appeared on the New York market.
Kuhn points to a Self-Portrait by Max Beckman, the Reclining Nymph by George Donner, and a Tyrolese Standing Madonna of the early fifteenth-century as the outstanding treasures of the collection.
Kuhn gave up teaching in 1964 to concentrate on the museum and on writing. His books include Catalogues of German Paintings in American Collections and German Expressionism and Abstract Art. He received the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany in 1959, for the latter publication.
The Swedish Government awarded him the Order of Knighthood of the Northern Star in 1955 for a large exhibition he staged of Swedish peasant and contemporary art.
Kuhn plans to remain in Cambridge and to continue his research on iconography in German Reformation art and on the personification of death in art.
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