Old Ned

Arizona Historymakers™

Arizona Historical Society

Philip Curtis

1907 - 2000

Honored as Historymaker 1992

Internationally Recognized Artist

Oral History Transcript:

Video by Pam Stevenson, Agave Productions Inc., for the Historical League

Philip Curtis was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1907. He graduated from Albion College, then entered law school at the University of Michigan, primarily because his father was a lawyer.

One day Mr. Curtis was strolling around campus and wandered into the university's art department. Although he had never been exposed to art, he became totally engrossed. After inquiring where the finest art department could be found, he enrolled in Yale University School of Fine Art. This was no easy feat, as he had no portfolio or previous works to display and he had been informed that all classes were full. He nevertheless convinced the school to make room for him.

In 1925, Philip Curtis moved to New York and entered the “art scene.” He arrived in Phoenix to establish the Phoenix Art Center for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936, which later became known as the Phoenix Art Museum. Mr. Curtis was an excellent art administrator and decided to further study Art Administration at Harvard University, but left when called for service by the OSS during World War II. In 1947,  he returned to Phoenix, Arizona permanently.

Mr. Curtis has had his work shown in major exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe. His first one man exhibit was held at the San Francisco Art Museum in 1949. Another major solo exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum in 1963 was widely acclaimed. Mr. Curtis was awarded an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from Albion College in 1971 and a doctorate in Humane Letters from Arizona State University in 1981. In 1990, the Phoenix Art Museum hosted a black-tie event for Curtis admirers, featuring paintings that had never been previously been on exhibit.

Philip Curtis has been hailed as Arizona's greatest living artist, and one with unequaled influence on art in Arizona.