Andrew George Kurtz

Wealthy chemical manufacturer (1825 - 1890) who commissioned and presented Frederic Leighton's 'Elijah in the Wilderness' to the Walker Art Gallery in 1877

Andrew Kurtz (1825 - 1890) commissioned the painting 'Elijah in the Wilderness' from the artist Frederic Lord Leighton (1830 - 1896) and presented it to the Walker in 1877, the year the gallery opened. He had decided that the gallery should have a painting by perhaps the most celebrated and successful British painter of the late 19th century.

Salford-born Kurtz was a was a local wealthy chemical manufacturer. He lived in Grove House, Penny Lane, in Liverpool. He was the owner of the Sutton Alkali works in Saint Helens. His father (also Andrew), who had been born in Germany, purchased the factory in 1842 and when he died four years later, Andrew Kurtz, then aged 21, inherited the factory.

Although music, literature art and drama were his principal interests, he developed the factory until it was one of the biggest chemical works in the area. Kurtz was a paternalistic employer building public baths, hospitals and co-operative stores for his workers. Politically he was a Liberal, but his philanthropy did not prevent him from polluting South Lancashire. He clashed with Tory landowners who wanted to restrict pollution from the chemical industries in St Helens. He simply and shamelessly denounced their efforts as a political trick. Kurtz was primarily a patron of music, and a talented pianist with an extensive collection of original music scores by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn.

He also collected pictures and purchased four from Frederic Leighton (1830 - 1896). When he visited the studio to approve the studies and sketches for 'Elijah' he also purchased two other pictures. In all he spent £3,360, perhaps as much as £800,000 at today’s values; he wrote in his diary, ‘I don’t know what craze seizes me where pictures are concerned but I seem to buy wildly regardless of consequences; I must try to be more cautious.’
  • Gender
    Male
  • Relationship
    Previous owner
  • Nationality
    British: English
  • Born
    1825-05-24 baptism
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Greater Manchester: Salford
  • Died
    1890-09-20
  • Place of death
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: Wales: Cardiganshire: Aberystwyth
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded
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