Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wilbur George Kurtz (1882-1967)

On January 19, 1861, Georgia became the fifth state to secede from the Union, joining South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and eventually six others to form the Confederate States of America. Although South Carolina seceded in 1860 and hostilities would not begin until April 1861, this month--January 2011--marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Indiana Illustrators offers an artist for the occasion.

Although he was born, reared, and educated in the heart of the Midwest, Wilbur George Kurtz, Sr., was an artist almost entirely identified with the South, especially his adopted home state of Georgia. He was born on February 28, 1882, in Oakland, Illinois, and grew up in Greencastle, Indiana. He attended DePauw University in Greencastle and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied under John H. Vanderpoel and Charles F. Brown. Kurtz began his art career in Chicago as a draftsman, engraver, and illustrator specializing in architectural renderings. He also lived in Indianapolis for a time.

Kurtz first saw Atlanta in 1903 and was captivated by the city. In 1911, he married a native southerner, Annie Laurie Fuller, and moved to Atlanta the following year. His home was next to a Civil War battlefield, and he became steeped in the history of Atlanta and the conflict that rent a nation. He painted a number of murals, including murals for the Georgia exhibits at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and the 1939 New York World’s Fair. During the Great Depression, Kurtz assisted in the creation of a depiction of the Battle of Atlanta at the Grant Park Cyclorama.

In addition to writing books (Atlanta and the Old South and Historic Atlanta: A Brief History of Atlanta and Its Landmarks) and magazine articles on the history of Atlanta and the Civil War, Kurtz was technical advisor and historian on the films Gone with the Wind (1939), Song of the South (1946), and The Great Locomotive Chase (1956). He was a friend of Margaret Mitchell and a specialist on the Andrews Raid, the inspiration for The General (1926), starring Buster Keaton, and the Walt Disney film, The Great Locomotive Chase. His first wife was in fact the daughter of William Fuller, the conductor on board "The General" when it was taken.

Kurtz painted a number of pictures of the Old South, including preproduction paintings for Gone with the Wind, and illustrated Maum Nancy by Susan Merrick Heywood (1937). Married twice and father of five children, Wilbur George Kurtz, Sr., died in Atlanta on February 18, 1967, ten days short of his eighty-fifth birthday.

A photograph of Wilbur Kurtz and a preproduction painting for Gone with the Wind (1939). Kurtz was friends with Margaret Mitchell, author of the book from which the movie was adapted. He served as technical advisor and historian on that and other movies about his adopted South.

Kurtz specialized in architectural and historical subjects. He combined the two in this painting of Collier's Store in old Atlanta.

Once again, Kurtz's interests in history and architecture are on display in this print depicting the history of Atlanta.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment