Born in Brooklyn, New York, Walter (Walt) Kuhn lived most of his life in Manhattan. He trained briefly at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute but was mainly self-taught. Kuhn began his career as a cartoonist before sailing to Europe, where he studied at the Académie Colarossi in Paris and the Royal Bavarian Academy in Munich. Upon returning to America, he set up a studio in New York City. He became part of a group of artists determined to break away from the constraints of the National Academy of Design, and he helped organize the 1910 Exhibition of Independent Artists. Kuhn was also a founding member of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, who organized the 1913 Armory Show. In the 1920s, Kuhn was involved with show business, writing and directing vaudeville acts. He also designed costumes. The actors, actresses, showgirls, and clowns were the inspiration for the paintings that became the source of Kuhn’s fame as an artist. Although Kuhn is best known for this subject matter, he also painted still lifes and landscapes.
The 1913 Armory show introduced Kuhn to the work of the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne. Like Cézanne’s still lifes, Green Apples with Gray Curtain dramatizes commonplace objects in a subtly complex composition. Kuhn transformed a nearly haphazard arrangement of apples into a taut, balanced design, in which the solidly painted apples take on an almost classical dignity. Kuhn reported that color and tonal relationships were difficult for him to master, but in this composition, he achieved a poetic harmony.