Early American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran (born in 1861 in Hartford, Kentucky) was memorable both for his elegant interior and exterior portraits of women and children, as well as for his leadership role at the Cragsmoor Art Colony. He was a prolific and popular painter all his life and was among the artists responsible for the rebirth of the genre tradition in late nineteenth-century American art. Curran’s iconic paintings featuring graceful young Victorian and Edwardian women in flowing dresses set against the vast expanse of romantic landscapes captivated art critics and the public, as well as his contemporaries. As well as his fellow American Impressionists Mary Cassatt, Edmund Charles Tarbell, and Frank Weston Benson, Currant spent time in Paris, the center of the art world, where he studied under Jules Lefebvre in 1889. This experience was considered essential to American artists with a dream to excel. As a result, it’s not difficult to see the influence of French Impressionists like Monet on his work.
Upon his return from Paris to the United States, the artist settled in New York and began teaching at the Pratt Institute and Art Students League. In 1903, fellow artist and friend Frederick Dellenbaugh invited Curran to visit Cragsmoor, a bourgeoning summer art center located along a plateau in the Shawangunk Mountains of the Hudson River Valley. Captivated by the landscape and creative atmosphere and Curran set up a summer home and studio and soon established himself as a central figure of the art colony, painting, and teaching.
Curran’s impressionistic techniques utilizing loose brushstrokes and a vivid palette combined with his nostalgic subject matter encapsulate the leisurely summer beauty of Cragsmoor. This jolly depiction of children catching minnows in shallow waters is a wonderful example of rural life scenes.
For nearly thirty years, until his death in 1942, Curran split his time between Cragsmoor and New York City. He continued to paint and maintained teaching positions at Pratt Institute, Cooper Union, and the National Academy. In addition to his role as a leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony, Curran remained an active member of the American Water Color Society, Society of American Artists, and the National Arts Club.