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Charles Courtney Curran was born in Hartford, Kentucky in 1861 to a school teacher family. He studied art in Cincinnati at the McMicken School (later the Fine Arts Academy of Cincinnati).
In 1881, Charles Curran went to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. At that time, Curran created numerous artworks of young women. In 1888, he won the Third Hallgarten Prize for Oils from the NAD and in 1889 Curran together with his bride Grace moved to study in Paris, France. In Paris, Charles Courtney Curran entered the Académie Julian where he learned new styles of painting - impressionism, tonalism, symbolism, and naturalism. He painted outdoors and showed three of his paintings at the Paris Salons.
A married couple, Curran and Grace returned to the United States in 1891 where for next 10 years they lived in New York and Ohio. Curran and his wife travelled to Europe and mainland China. Although Curran was interested in new ways of artistic expression, he did not practice newer artistic styles that emerged in the United States at that time. He was engaged in a number of arts organizations, and served as a secretary of the National Academy of Design for 15 years.
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