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Alice Levi Duncan
The origin of this painting lies both in Kuhn’s exposure to the Fauves at the 1913 Armory Show and his extensive work and never-ending interest in the theater. Although his later subjects of clowns and circus performers are iconic—these are also derived from Kuhn’s early work for plans for the Kit Kat Club, theatricals for the Penguin Club (which he founded in 1917), designing for the Pinwheel Revue and the Hitchy-Koo Revue on Broadway, and other cabarets through 1927.
The orange palette, the large scale of the painting and the ornate aspect of the depiction make the title of the work most apt. Concert relates in imagery and handling to Kuhn’s series Imaginary History of the West (1918-1923). All of these works share a sophistication and energy which confirm this artist’s role as one of the leading American modernists.
Concert was purchased from Kuhn by Mary Williamson Averell Harriman, an aunt by marriage to Marie Harriman who would become Kuhn’s gallerist. Daughter of the railroad tycoon E.H. Harriman, Mary Harriman was one of the founding members of the Junior League and was appointed by Franklin Roosevelt to chair the Consumer Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration. She owned at least two works by Kuhn, the present Concert, which she acquired directly from the artist and installed at her estate The Plains in Virginia, and Apple Basket, purchased nearly a decade later.