Walter Egel Kuhlman Biography

Walter Egel Kuhlman




Walter Egel Kuhlman, painter, printmaker, and teacher, was born to Danish parents in St. Paul, Minnesota on 11 November 1918. After graduating from high school, he attended the Saint Paul School of Fine Art where he was a student of Cameron Booth. In 1939, Kuhlman enrolled in the University of Minnesota and received his B.A. degree in 1941. Following a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in 1940, Kuhlman won a Cummington Foundation Grant in 1942, which allowed him to paint in the Berkshires. Within a short time, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy where he worked as a medical illustrator during World War II. After his discharge, he briefly attended Tulane University before moving to the Virgin Islands.

Kuhlman moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1947 and joined his friend, Frank Lobdell, as a student at the California School of Fine Arts under the GI Bill. As an advanced student, Kuhlman was given his own studio and he remained at the school until 1950. He was the first artist to rent a studio in the Industrial Center Building on the waterfront of Sausalito and during the early 1950s he was a member of a group of artists known as the Sausalito Six. His first prints where offset lithographs which were published in 1948 in the Abstract Expressionist portfolio, entitled Drawings.

Kuhlman joined Lobdell in Paris in 1951 where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and his work was included in the Sixième Salon des Réalitiés Nouvelles at the Petit Palais in Paris and Un Art Autre at the Museum of Modern Art.

He returned to Sausalito and began teaching in 1956 when he joined the faculty of the California School of Fine Arts. Kuhlman also taught at Stanford University, Santa Clara University, Arizona University, New Mexico University, University of Michigan, and Sonoma State University where he taught from 1969 until 1988. After he retired, Kuhlman taught at the National Academy of Design in 1995.

Kuhlman received fellowships from the Tiffany Foundation and the Graham Foundation. In 1982, the California Arts Council presented him with a Maestro Grant as an “leading California working artist and teacher award.” His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Kuhlman was elected an Academician of the National Academy of Design in 1995 and his work is represented in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; the British Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, California; the National Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

Walter Kuhlman died in Sausalito, California on 20 March 2009.

With regards to painting, Walt Kuhlman stated, “Painting has to have an abstract substructure. Otherwise it isn’t worth a damn.”