Artist Profile: Curt Frankenstein



Curt Frankenstein, the well known midwestern artist, and his wife Renata bought a cottage in Detroit Harbor in 1969. The cottage had a beautiful view, a boathouse for his studio and a dock for their fishing boat. Here they spent summers for about twenty years until Curt’s illness in the late 90’s. Neighbors knew they had arrived when the sign of an artist’s palette was hung out by the side of the road. Curt spent much of his time in his studio but balanced it with things he enjoyed, one of which was socializing with Island folk. Each summer we looked forward to his visits and to see his new work, etchings and paintings in the summer exhibit at the Art & Nature Center.


Christmas Cards

In the fall Curt and Renata headed back to their winter home and studio in Wilmette, IL, but we, his island friends, looked forward each December to receiving his Christmas card. The envelope stood out from all the rest because of its size and Curt’s distinguished signature. His cards, prints of his etchings, brought a smile with their unusual characters, cats, dogs, birds and owls who took on the humor of the human condition, or it could be a landscape which presented an enigmatic visual puzzle.


Early Challenges

Curt was born in Germany of a Lutheran mother and a Jewish father. At seventeen Kurt escaped from the threatening environment of Germany in 1939 by way of China. With a talent for drawing caricatures, portraits and scenery he was able to entertain, communicate and even sell some of his drawings along the way. Sailors from the American ships in the Shanghai harbor were some of his customers. One of the captains was so impressed with his work he offered to sponsor his move to the United States and assisted in securing a scholarship for him to the American Academy of Art in Chicago.


Imagination Reigns

Curt continued to study and worked hard displaying his work in galleries, one man shows, commissions and midwest art fairs. His personality and art touched the people he came in contact with. Curt’s source for his art was his imagination, using familiar objects in an unfamiliar way. “The challenge is to show something that does not exist but make it look as if it does.” He was successful as he won many awards and honors. His art continues to be enjoyed in many collections.

For more information and to see a display of his work go to the web site, We treasure the memories of this man who was apart of our community, a contributor to the Art & Nature Center and who was generous in the sharing of Holiday Greetings through his beautiful cards.

Thanks to John Moore, a friend of Curt’s who lent the pamphlet, “Curt Frankenstein, Dream World and Real World.”

Patti Cauldwell