Nebraska Authors

Dwight Kirsch

Born 1899 Pawnee County, NE

Died 1981

Kirsch is an artist who profoundly influenced the history and understanding of art in Nebraska. He entered the University of Nebraska the age of 16 in 1915 and graduated in 1919. Fellow students would include Aaron Douglas (of Harlem Renaissance fame), and Leonard Thiessen. On graduation, Kirsch joined the Art Students League in New York City, where he attended lectures by fellow Nebraskan Robert Henri. He apprenticed and worked in commercial art both in New York and on the West Coast. He returned to Nebraska to accept a teaching position at the University in 1924.

A crisis in the Nebraska Art Association (NAA) in 1932 led to Kirsch becoming NAA secretary, and new exhibitions and collections policies. With considerable initial help from Mabel Langdon Eiseley, Kirsch, who became NAA curator in 1936, acquired much of the nationally acclaimed collection of art that would finally find its home in the Sheldon Art Museum in Lincoln.

Kirsch is credited with introducing Nebraska to modern art through his lectures, exhibitions and teaching. He brought a number important modern artists to the state as visiting artists, to give lectures and work in public. He visited with many important American artists and became a recognized lecturer and authority on modern art. He left the University of Nebraska in 1950 to direct the Des Moines Art Center and teach at Iowa State University. The last five years of his life, spent in a nursing home in Colorado, were among his most prolific, seeing him produce, on average, 90 works a year.

At his death, Kirsch left behind a manuscript in note form that comprises his autobiography My Life in Art. The notes found their way into private hands and have been privately published. Special Collections at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a working copy of the published work for scholars to consult. The Dwight Kirsch website has a full-text copy of the auto-biography.

See also, for the Sheldon Art Museum collection, Norman Geske. See also Robert Henri, Keith Jacobshagen, Dale Nichols, artists. Also, Sheldon Art Museum author Karen Janovy.

MONA has a Kirsch collection and a good biography page.

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Author Of

  • Visual Work
  • Biography

Keywords

Painter; Sheldon Art Gallery; Nebraska Art Association; Memoirs

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