Browse Similar Masterworks

Atlanta Railroad Yards, 1962
Wilbur Kurtz (1882-1967)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
20 x 72 inches
Signature Details: Wilber G. Kurtz-1962
Status: The Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Wilbur George Kurtz, who became known nationally as a Georgia artist-historian and a foremost authority on the Old South, humorously counted himself a "transplanted Yankee".

Born Feb. 28,1882 in Oakland, Illinois, reared in Greencastle, Indiana, educated at DePauw University and the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. Kurtz' origins and upbringing were Mid­western.  As a young artist in Chicago he worked as draftsman, engraver, professional illustrator, and specialized in architectural rendering.

He first saw Atlanta in 1903, when he journeyed South to interview Andrews Raid participants.  The "quiet, pleasant town, full of churches, where they rolled up the side­walks at dark every night", captivated him.  He moved to Atlanta in 1912.  His home was "right next to a Civil War battlefield", and he embarked on an amazing lifelong quest for history, within a region rich with unrecorded history.

His adventures with pen, paintbrush and sketchbook spanned the 55 years he lived, in Atlanta, and earned for Wilbur Kurtz a unique place among artists, historians and the respect and affections of fellow Georgians.

Many public buildings and private art collections throughout Atlanta and the South feature Kurtz murals and historical paintings.  You see his distinctive works at Georgia's Executive Center, the Woodrow Wilson Shrine at Staunton, Va., five murals within the National Bank of Abbeville, South Carolina, a large proscenium arch decoration-in collaboration with Don Dubois-for the Macon, Georgia  City Auditorium, six large murals for the Georgia exhibit at A Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, 1933-34, a series of paintings of buildings which housed The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Companies in Houston, Tex., and Atlanta, and others too numerous to mention.

Mr. Kurtz wrote a book, "Historic Atlanta", which was illustrated with his drawings and published in 1929.  He regularly contributed articles and illustrations to The Atlanta Constitution, The Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine.  He wrote and provided illustrations for many other periodicals, and became associate editor of Civil War History, an Iowa State University quarterly.

An important Kurtz contribution to Atlanta was his 1934-36 supervision of the restoration of the city's famous Cyclorama of the Battle of Atlanta, at Grant Park.  In 1953 he wrote the text and drew maps for a book about the cyclorama, published by the City of Atlanta.

In 1952 the Georgia Historical Commission engaged him to research, write and supervise erection of numerous roadside historical markers, mainly in the widespread Atlanta campaign area.  He served in 1948-49 as consultant for the Little White House Memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Mr. Kurtz became technical advisor for three notable Hollywood motion pictures which treated Georgia themes: "Gone With The Wind" (1939); "Song of the South" (1946); and "The Great Locomotive Chase" (1957).

He served for 10 years on the Atlanta City Planning Commission, was an honorary member of the Atlanta Historical Society and a member of the Atlanta Symposium and the Atlanta Civil War Round Table.

In 1911 Wilbur G. Kurtz married Miss Annie Laurie Fuller, daughter of Capt.  Wil­liam Allen Fuller of Atlanta.  They had five children: Wilbur George Kurtz, Jr.; Mrs. William Fambrough; Henry Harrison Kurtz; Mrs. Robert Lyon; and Eugene Allen Kurtz.

Mr. Kurtz' first wife died in 1946.  In 1949 he married Miss Annie Rachel Pye, daughter of Joseph Christopher Pye of Woodland, Georgia.

Mr. Kurtz died in Atlanta on February 18, 1967.

Ane Pye Kurtz, Atlanta and the Old South: Paintings & Drawings by Wilbur G. Kurtz (Atlanta, Georgia: American Lithograph Co., 1969), essay by Charlotte Hale Smith.

1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
Get Our Email Newsletter
Created by . Easy site updating through Backstage CMS.