Charles McMeen Kurtz was an arts administrator, museum director, collector, dealer and editor. He was the son of the attorney Davis Brook Kurtz and Julia Wilder, and had four younger siblings: Louis, who became an attorney, Edward, a professor at Columbia University, Emily, an artist, and Catherine, a musician. On 1 October 1885 he married Julia Stephenson, the daughter of A. T. Stephenson, a Kentucky doctor. Their children include Elizabeth ('Daisy') (1886-97), Julia Wilder (1889-1977) and Isabella Starkweather (1901-91), a school teacher.
Kurtz studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York. He became Art Director for the Southern Exposition in 1883 until 1886, and the St. Louis Exposition in 1894 until 1899. It was at the St Louis 'Fair' that he introduced the work of the Glasgow School. He was one of Halsey C. Ives' chief assistants at the United States Fine Art Department of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, at which JW exhibited. He was the Director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and the first Director of the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York. He organised exhibitions for the Art Union and American Art Association. In 1900 he was Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the United States Commission at the Paris Exposition.
Kurtz was well known for his critical writings. For nine years from 1881 he published National Academy Notes. He also edited the Art Union Magazine from 1884 to 1885. He contributed to the New York Tribune, New York Daily Star, World, New York Recorder, New York Truth, Chicago Evening Post and Chicago Graphic, and became the literary and art editor of the Sunday Star. Edward Guthrie Kennedy described him to JW in 1893 as 'a capital fellow, very earnest and intelligent' who 'has a big influence on the press here' (#07222).
The Smithsonian Archives of American Art hold a large collection of papers relating to Kurtz, the bulk of which dates from 1884 to 1909, and includes his correspondence with his family, friends and business colleagues.
Who Was Who in America, vol. 1, 1897-1942, Chicago, 1943; http://artarchives.si.edu (accessed 16 March 2004).