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Emma Kaan
Charlotte “Emma” Warton Kaan (American, 1860-1949) was a noted artist, painter, illustrator, printmaker, wood engraver, stained glass window designer, teacher and lecturer. She is best known for her Barbizon style and artwork during the Arts & Crafts movement in the early part of the 20th century. Emma’s work included landscape painting, portraits, figurative works, hand colored carbon and platinum photographic prints, letterpress halftones and woodcut prints, as well as cover, bookplate and interior illustrations. Emma was born in Boston, MA on April 2, 1860 to Hungarian and Austrian immigrants George W. Kaan (1812-1895) and Maria (née Warton) Kaan (1824-1910), and was the fourth of five children; three older siblings to include: Julia W. (1849-1945), Frances “Fannie” W. (1851-1935), George W., Jr. (1855-1943), and younger brother Frank W. (1861-1960). Emma’s father was born in Gross Kanizsa, Hungary and her mother in Iglau, Austria. They immigrated to the United States in 1849 and settled in Boston, MA the following year.

Emma’s early education was in Boston, MA graduating from Somerville High School in 1877. She even contributed an illustration as part of her graduating class, for the ‘25th Anniversary of the High School’, held Monday, July 2, 1877. After high school, she took the two-year course at the Boston Normal School which was established for the purpose of giving professional instruction to young women who intended to become teachers in the public schools of Boston, graduating in 1879. At the age of twenty, Emma was listed in the 1880 federal census as a teacher, though she didn’t teach officially until a few years later. She furthered her art studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston, MA, and later received certificates of completed courses in 1881, 1884 & 1885 and received her A.B.D. diplomas in 1885 (A: Elementary Drawing; B: Painting & Industrial Design; and D: Modeling & Design).

By February of 1883, Emma taught in her first position as a special assistant in the primary schools of the Gibson District and was living with her sister Fannie [who was also a teacher at School No. 10 in Boston] at 12 Pleasant Avenue in Somerville. Within six months she was ‘eligible’ for substitute, temporary and permanent teaching positions, according to the City of Boston school documents, and later taught temporarily at the Girls’ High School in Boston in 1885. On September 20, 1886 she formally began teaching as an assistant in drawing at the Girls’ High School on West Newton Street in Boston, MA, with a yearly salary of $756, and within two years her salary was increased to $852 (which equals about $19,363 and $21,822 respectively in today’s dollars for 2018). By 1888, she had taken a leave of absence from teaching to study art in Europe at the Académie Colarossi, Académie Delécluse and Julian Académie, Paris, France. There she likely first met fellow artist, future art collaborator and life-partner, Annie I. Crawford (American, 1856-1942) while Annie was on her own educational trip to Europe during the fall of 1889.

In 1893, Emma maintained ‘Studio 10’ in the Harcourt Building located at 23 Irvington Street in Boston. She continued to teach at the Girls’ High School until 1894, when she traveled to England and Ireland for the summer. Her talent as a fine artist was firmly established in 1895 when she was included in the prestigious Paris Salon with her oil painting, “Interior de Raccommodeur de Faience”. Upon her return to Boston, she began designing bookplates and doing illustration work, most notably the cover of A Boy’s Book of Rhyme, by Clinton Scollard, Boston, published by Copeland and Day, 1896. “During its short existence of less than six years, Copeland & Day, co-founded by the internationally acclaimed photographer F. Holland Day (1864-1933), was modeled after William Morris and his Kelmscott Press. Their fine books are noted today for their discriminating selection of the highest quality Arts & Crafts designs and illustrations produced by celebrated artists of the period, including Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) and Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966).”[1]

It would be hard to talk about Miss Kaan’s art career without including the talented artist Annie I. Crawford. Emma and Annie shared their life as well as an art studio from 1898 at 43 D.E. Morgan Building, 534-36 Main Street in Buffalo, NY, and later around 1903, in the tower of the Women’s Educational and Union building at 86 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY. From 1900-1902, Emma published some of her own prints from original artwork she had produced while in Europe and made for sale to the general public. By 1902, after seeing what was possible with newer printing techniques, Emma and Annie began experimenting with a new process of reproducing their original drawings so that the prints resembled watercolor paintings. With trial and error, a method of relief printing was found that was specifically adapted to produce strong effects of light and shade. The process was intricate and the result was extremely delicate. Woodcuts were produced from original artwork and printed using one color ink, then finished by hand with watercolor. These original prints would not be considered color woodcuts, but rather hand-colored woodcuts. Producing prints from woodcuts wasn’t new, but the method employed was unique. It allowed for the creation of original prints as well as photomechanical reproductions, and no two prints were alike, so they appeared like a painting but were much less expensive. In addition to landscapes, Emma also used the process with bookplate illustrations while Annie applied it to portraits and ‘idealized heads’ which was the focus of her artwork at that time.

“Kaan’s work was especially in the tradition of the Barbizon School and her paintings were compared favorably to Charles-François Daubigny (French, 1817-1878), acknowledged master of the style.”[2]

Both women taught art classes and gave lectures in their spacious studio in the Women’s Union Building, with separate classes for watercolor, oil, black & white studies and pastels. Some classes involved models as well as still life arrangements. During the winter of 1902-1903, Emma applied her teaching skills and experience from art studies in Europe to give a series of ten lectures at their studio on the topic of “Art and History in Relation to Art”. The individual lectures were given about every two weeks and the topics included: “The Story of the City of Paris”, “Cathedrals and the Men Who Built Them”, “Venice: Its History and Its Art”, “The Story of Some Potters’ Lives”, “Strange Little Holland”, “The Illustration of Books”, “Art in England and America”, “Art of the Middle Ages Before The Renaissance”, “The Beauty and Pathos of Italy”, and “The Artist’s Life of Work”. Emma’s in-depth lectures were well attended and were reviewed favorably in the local newspapers.

Emma and Annie often collaborated on paintings, prints or other works of art, signing both of their names to the pieces. Arts & Crafts artist Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853-1936), with whom they were close friends, provided them with hand-wrought iron and mission oak frames for original paintings and prints. Portraits of Charles Rohlfs and his wife Anna Katherine Green (American, 1846-1935), a noted author, were completed in 1905 by both artists, and as a fitting tribute were later set into frames of his own design.

Emma was a member of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Arts Club of Buffalo, Town Club Woman’s Group, the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, MA and Boston Art Club, and she exhibited in numerous group exhibitions locally as well as in Boston, New York City, Virginia and Chicago. Both Emma and Annie were well respected in the local art scene and in “January 1906, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy sponsored A Collection of Paintings by Artists of Buffalo, at the newly inaugurated Albright Art Gallery. Included in this regional exhibition were some of Buffalo’s finest artists. As a sign of their status in the community, Crawford & Kaan were allowed an inordinate amount of works compared to the other artists. Out of the 245 works in the exhibition, Emma exhibited nine oils including a portrait of Charles Rohlfs, one pastel and six colored woodcuts. One of the woodcuts was titled “Rosamond” and is likely a portrait of Rohlf’s daughter, Rosamond…Annie exhibited eight oils, one titled “Portrait of Miss Kaan,” six colored woodcuts and collaboratively, they exhibited nine colored woodcuts, making a total of 39 works.”[2.1]

By 1910, Emma and Annie were at the height of their success, and their reputations were secured within the art community. Although they both continued to paint, it seems that by this time their print-production had all but ceased. Their names no longer appeared in any records of national exhibitions, but they did continue to exhibit together (as well as individually for Emma), with an exhibit in 1914, and many years later during the 1930’s. The last local exhibit records for both Emma & Annie was 1936, and for Emma was 1937. Details of specific exhibits and painting titles follow in the ‘Chronology’.

They continued to live in Buffalo for the remainder of their lives together at 123 Norwood Avenue, with Emma sometimes taking trips to her cottage in the Berkshires or having extended visits with family members. They continued to paint through the early 1940’s until Annie died in 1942. “When Annie died in 1942, Emma produced a painting depicting the two of them in their old age, holding white canes and standing in the midst of a group of descending angels, presumably coming to take her partner of over forty years back to heaven. What Emma expressed in her painting, Annie had foreseen in a poem entitled “Another Life;”[3]

The hand of Death,
Is soft and cool,
Upon my Brow;
And he is strong
To lean against
When one is tired.

Life stands by, smiling.
She came all the way
With me. Why, how
Strange it seems to think
I’m home at last!



After Annie’s passing, Emma remained in Buffalo for a few years at their residence before moving back to Boston, MA where she died of cancer on July 3, 1949 at Boston Hospital at the age of eighty-nine. She was buried in her family plot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA (Plot 5069, Space 7).


Chronology:

1860- Born, on April 2, 1860 to Hungarian and Austrian immigrants George W. Kaan (1812-1895) and Maria (née Warton) Kaan (1824-1910), Boston, MA. She had three older siblings including: Julia W. (1849-1945), Frances “Fannie” W. (Sometimes listed as Fanny, 1851-1935), George W., Jr. (1855-1943), and younger brother Frank W. (1861-1960).

1877- Graduated from Somerville High School, Somerville, MA.

1879- Graduated form the two-year course at the Boston Normal School which was established for the purpose of giving professional instruction to young women who intended to become teachers in the public schools of Boston, MA. Resided at New Seaver Street, Dorchester, MA.

1880- At the age of twenty, Emma was listed in the 1880 federal census as a teacher though she didn’t teach officially until a few years later.

1881-85- She furthered her art studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston, MA, and later received certificates of completed courses (1881, 1884 & 1885) and received her A.B.D. diplomas in 1885 (A: Elementary Drawing; B: Painting & Industrial Design; and D: Modeling & Design).

1883- February, Emma taught in her first position as a special assistant in the primary schools of the Gibson District and was living with her sister Fannie (who was also a teacher at School No. 10 in Boston) at 12 Pleasant Avenue in Somerville. Within six months she showed as ‘eligible’ for substitute, temporary and permanent teaching positions, according to the City of Boston school documents.

1885- Emma taught as a temporary teacher at the Girls’ High School in Boston, MA.

1886- September 20, Emma formally began teaching as an assistant in drawing at the Girls’ High School in Boston, MA, with a yearly salary of $756, and within two years her salary had increased to $852 per year (which equals about $19,363 and $21,822 respectively, in today’s dollars for 2018), while still residing at 12 Pleasant Avenue in Somerville, MA.

From 1886-Circa 1894- She taught at the Girls’ High School in Boston, MA but took a leave of absence from teaching during that time to study art in Europe (c.1888-Early c.1890’s).

Circa 1888-Early 1890’s- She studied art in Europe at the Académie Colarossi, Académie Delécluse and Julian Académie, Paris, France.

1894- July 21, Emma traveled to England and Ireland for the summer.

1895- Exhibited, group show, oil painting “Interior de Raccommodeur de Faience”, Paris Salon. December 31, Emma’s Father died, Somerville, MA.

1896- Exhibited, group show, “Third Exhibition of New England Artists”, Jordan Art Gallery, Jordan Marsh & Co., Boston, MA. November 9-?, exhibited, group show, “Black & White Annual Exhibition of the Art Students’ League of Buffalo”, in the rooms of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY.

1898- Maintained her studio with Annie Crawford at 43 D.E. Morgan Building, 534-536 Main Street, Buffalo, NY. Resided at 826 West Delavan with Annie Crawford.

1900- February, exhibited, two-person show, “Emma Kaan and Annie Crawford”, watercolors and studies shown, 20th Century Club, Buffalo, NY.

From 1900-1902- Emma published some of her own prints from original artwork she had produced while in Europe, local scenes and portraits, made for sale to the general public, to include: “Market Place, Étaples France” (1900), “Market place, France” (1900), “Market woman” (1900), “Shrimp gatherers” (1900), “Woman weaving” (1900), “Three friends” (1900), “Flower market” (1901), “Going errands” (1901), “Balloon ascension–Concord State Fair” (1901), “St. Michael’s by the market” (1901), “Margaret” (1902).

1902- Emma began experimenting and later co-developed with Annie Crawford a new printing process of reproducing original drawings so that prints resembled watercolor paintings, which were hand-colored woodcuts. Exhibited, November-December, show of originals, watercolor prints, carbon and platinum prints with Annie Crawford, George W. Benson Art Shop, 567 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

From October 27, 1902–March 2, 1903- Emma gave a series of ten lectures about every two weeks or so on the topic of “Art and History in Relation to Art” out of her studio in the Women’s Union Building, to include individual lectures on: “The Story of the City of Paris”, “Cathedrals and the Men Who Built Them”, “Venice: Its History and Its Art”, “The Story of Some Potters’ Lives”, “Strange Little Holland”, “The Illustration of Books”, “Art in England and America”, “Art of the Middle Ages Before The Renaissance”, “The Beauty and Pathos of Italy”, and “The Artist’s Life of Work”, Buffalo, NY.

Circa 1903-10- Maintained her studio with Annie Crawford, in the tower of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building at 86 Delaware Street, Buffalo, NY.

1905- Emma and Annie both painted portraits of the famous Arts & Crafts artist and furniture craftsman Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853-1936) and his wife Anna Katherine Green (American, 1846-1935) a noted author, and set into his personally designed frames, Buffalo, NY.

1906- Exhibited, January, group show, “A Collection of Paintings by Artists of Buffalo”, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, between the two of them they exhibited 39 works; Emma exhibited nine oils (including a portrait of Charles Rohlfs), one pastel, six colored woodcuts (one woodcut was titled “Rosamond” and was likely a portrait of Rohlf’s daughter Rosamond) and Annie exhibited eight oil paintings (one titled “Portrait of Miss Kaan”), six colored woodcuts, and collaboratively they exhibited nine colored woodcuts, at the newly inaugurated Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, “Arts & Crafts Exhibition”, Buffalo, NY.

1907- Exhibited, group show, National Academy of Design, NYC. Exhibited, one color print “Fog” (#1258 A) and one collaborative woodcut with Annie “Snow” (#1257 B.), as members of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Copley & Allston Halls, Boston, MA. Exhibited, group show, Boston Art Club, for “The Pond” (165), Boston, MA. December 10-22, exhibited, group show, “Sixth Annual Exhibition of Original Designs and Examples of Art Crafts having Distinct Artistic Merit”, collaborative woodcuts with Annie I. Crawford to include “The elm tree.” (168), “Althea.” (169), “A pine.” (170), “The meadow.” (171), “Snow”. (172), and “Twilight” (173), and five color prints by Emma Kaan to include “Autumn night.” (202), “Autumn.” (203), “Autumn dawn.” (204), “Hillside.” (205) and “Winter.” (206), The Art Institute of Chicago, IL.

1908- Exhibited, April 1-20, two person show, with Annie Crawford, Emma exhibited fifteen oils, Annie exhibited six oils and two collaborative oil figures of figure and landscape subjects, some of the paintings included were; “Portrait of Annie E. Marvin” (#1 Crawford), “Mignonette” (Crawford), “Reverie” (#3 Crawford), “Asters” (#6 Crawford), “Romance” (Collaboration painting), “Rachel” (Collaboration painting), “Summer” (#7 Kaan), “The Pond” (Kaan), “September” (Kaan), “A Berkshire Farm” (Kaan), “The Pathless Woods” (Kaan), “Autumnal Woods” (Kaan), “August Haze” (#16 Kaan), and “Across the Valley” (Kaan), at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Gallery V, Buffalo, NY. July, Exhibited, group show, “Summer Exhibition of the National Society of Craftsman; And School of Wood Carving and Metal Work”, Emma showed wood block prints, held at Mr. James William Fosdick’s (1858-1937) home in White Mountains, Sugar Hill, NH.

By 1910- Their print production had ceased by then, but they both continued to paint, but there names no longer appeared in any records of national exhibitions (last local exhibit records for both Emma & Annie was 1936, and for Emma 1937). Emma and Annie continued to paint through the early 1940's.

1910- February 16, Emma’s mother Marie died, Somerville. MA.

1911- May, exhibited, group show, collaborative woodcuts by Emma and Annie shown to include, “Dusk”, “Autumn”, and “The Woods in Winter”, held in the studio of artist Alice B. Muzzey (American, 1865-1943), 516 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY.

1913- Exhibited, group show, Bradford, PA.

1914- Exhibited, both in a group show, works on loan to the Albright Art Gallery for an exhibit of Buffalo Artists, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, Norfolk, VA.

1920- At the age of sixty Emma graduated from Gordon Bible College in Wenham, Massachusetts, and after graduating she was ordained a minister although she never had charge over any church or congregation.

1932- April-May, exhibited, 3-person group show, “Emma Kaan, Annie Crawford and Sylvia Hoover”, Emma showed paintings of “Laurel in a Birch Wood”, “Willows”, “Cazenovia Park”, “In Holland”, “Twilight”, “July Morning in the Berkshires”, “Apple Blossoms”, “A Windbreak”, “Wild Cherry in Bloom”, and “Poplars and Oaks”, Little Art Gallery, Town Club, 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1933- April 16-30, exhibited, 2-person show, “Emma Kaan and Annie Crawford”, floral & portraits by Annie and landscapes by Emma, Twentieth Century Club, 595 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY.

1934- April, exhibited, 3-person group show, “Emma Kaan, Annie Crawford and Sylvia T. Hoover”, Little Art Gallery, Town Club, 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1935- January 19, Emma’s sister Frances died, Somerville, MA. Presented the “Emma Kaan Prize” at the annual Buffalo Society of Artists’ exhibition. December, exhibited, two-person show, “Emma Kaan and Annie Crawford”, Little Art Gallery, Town Club, 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1936- Exhibited, 3-person group show, “Emma Kaan, Annie Crawford and Sylvia T. Hoover”, watercolors & ceramics, Little Art Gallery, Town Club, 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1937- November 23-December 15, exhibited, 5-person group show, eight watercolors shown, Little Art Gallery, Town Club, 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1942- February 18th, Annie Died at the age of 85, Buffalo, NY. “Annie Crawford is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo (Lot 5, Section P, Plot 12) and she is the only one in her family plot that does not have a headstone. It’s ironic that her family owned the Crawford Monuments which provided memorials in Buffalo's cemeteries.”[4] -David Martin of Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle, WA.

1943- April 14, Emma’s brother George, Jr. died, Stoughton, MA.

1945- October 15, Emma’s sister Julia Kaan-Smith died, Groton, MA.

1949- July 3, Emma died of cancer at Boston Hospital in July, Boston, MA, at the age of eighty-nine and is buried at her family plot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA (Plot 5069, Space 7).

1960- October 27, Emma’s brother Frank died, Somerville, MA.

2018- June 9-July 14, exhibited, group show, “Summer Salon: Vintage” Paintings from the Collection of Sam Haney (Eden, NY), Sidney Wolff (Union Springs, NY), and Meibohm Fine Arts, untitled watercolor painting ‘Elm Tree’ (1936), 20” x 14”, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.


Memberships/Associations: Buffalo Society of Artists, was on selection committee, Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (1907), Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY; Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, Buffalo, NY; Arts Club of Buffalo, NY; Town Club Woman’s Group, 805 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY; Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, MA; Boston Art Club, Boston, MA.

Collections: Emma Kaan (1860-1949) and Annie I. Crawford (1856-1942), “Romance” 1908, oil on canvas, 52” x 31”, Gift of Louis J. Moran and Douglas W. Van Dine, Permanent Collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Mural or painting for the Chapel at Gordon Bible College in Wenham, MA (location unknown); Stained glass window design (location unknown), Buffalo, NY; RISD Museum, collaborative hand-colored woodcuts with Annie I. Crawford, set into Charles Rohlfs frames, “Objects: “Evening #8” (c.1905-10) and “Pond Lily #4” (c.1904), Walter H. Kimball Fund, 1990.011.1 & 1990.011.2, Providence, RI; Portrait painting of “Charles Rohlfs” 1905, by Emma Kaan, Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives, Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums, Washington, DC; Smithsonian Archives of American Art, “Macbeth Gallery records, 1838-1968 bulk 1892-1953; Kaan, Emma, 1897, 1906-07”; Various public collections and works held by family descendants and numerous collectors.

Published Articles & Illustrations: Article in Wide Awake, “A Jingle–From Paris, by Emma Kaan, illustrated, Vol. 37 No. 1, Pg. 87 (1893); Cover illustration for A Boy’s Book of Rhyme, by Clinton Scollard, Boston, Copeland and Day (1896); Self-published prints to include: “Market Place, Étaples France” (1900), “Market place, France” (1900), “Market woman” (1900), “Shrimp gatherers” (1900), “Woman weaving” (1900), “Three friends” (1900), “Flower market” (1901), “Going errands” (1901), “Balloon ascension–Concord State Fair” (1901), “St. Michael’s by the market” (1901), “Margaret” (1902).

Other Publications/Articles: Western New York Heritage Magazine, “Intimate Spirits: Remembering the Art and Lives of Annie Crawford & Emma Kaan”, by David F. Martin & Michael L. James, Fall issue, Pgs. 20-29, 2007.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link

(Written & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 06/2018, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)
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