Max Kuehne was born in Halle, Germany on November 7, 1880. During his adolescence the family immigrated to America and settled in Flushing, New York. As a young man, Max was active in rowing events, bicycle racing, swimming and sailing. After experimenting with various occupations, Kuehne decided to study art, which led him to William Merritt Chase’s famous school in New York; he was trained by Chase himself, then by Kenneth Hayes Miller. Chase was at the peak of his career, and his portraits were especially in demand. Kuehne would have profited from Chase’s invaluable lessons in technique, as well as his inspirational personality. Miller, only four years older than Kuehne, was another of the many artists to benefit from Chase’s teachings. Even though Miller still would have been under the spell of Chase upon Kuehne’s arrival, he was already experimenting with an aestheticism that went beyond Chase’s realism and virtuosity of the brush. Later Miller developed a style dependent upon volumetric figures that recall Italian Renaissance prototypes.
Having received such a thorough foundation in art, Kuehne spent a year in Europe’s major art museums to study techniques of the old masters. His son Richard named Ernest Lawson as one of Max Kuehne’s European traveling companions. In 1911 Kuehne moved to New York where he maintained a studio and painted everyday scenes around him, using the rather Manet-like, dark palette of Henri.
After another brief trip to Spain in 1920, Kuehne went to the other Rockport (Cape Ann, Massachusetts) where he was accepted as a member of the vigorous art colony, spearheaded by Aldro T. Hibbard. Rockport’s picturesque ambiance fulfilled the needs of an artist-sailor: as a writer in the Gloucester Daily Times
explained, “Max Kuehne came to Rockport to paint, but he stayed to sail.” The 1920s was a boom decade for Cape Ann, as it was for the rest of the nation. Kuehne’s studio in Rockport was formerly occupied by Jonas Lie.
Max Kuehne died in 1968. He exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, and in various New York City galleries. Kuehne’s works are in the following public collections: the Detroit Institute of Arts (Marine Headland), the Whitney Museum (Diamond Hill, 1919, and Main Street, Gloucester, 1929), the Los Angeles County Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Several of the Spanish landscapes went to the Hispanic Society of America.