Age, Biography and Wiki

Karl R. Free was born on 16 May, 1903, is a painter. Discover Karl R. Free's Biography, Age, Height, Physical Stats, Dating/Affairs, Family and career updates. Learn How rich is He in this year and how He spends money? Also learn how He earned most of networth at the age of 44 years old?

Popular As N/A
Occupation N/A
Age 44 years old
Zodiac Sign Taurus
Born 16 May 1903
Birthday 16 May
Birthplace N/A
Date of death February 16, 1947
Died Place N/A

We recommend you to check the complete list of Famous People born on 16 May. He is a member of famous painter with the age 44 years old group.

Karl R. Free Height, Weight & Measurements

At 44 years old, Karl R. Free height not available right now. We will update Karl R. Free's Height, weight, Body Measurements, Eye Color, Hair Color, Shoe & Dress size soon as possible.

Physical Status
Height Not Available
Weight Not Available
Body Measurements Not Available
Eye Color Not Available
Hair Color Not Available

Dating & Relationship status

He is currently single. He is not dating anyone. We don't have much information about He's past relationship and any previous engaged. According to our Database, He has no children.

Parents Not Available
Wife Not Available
Sibling Not Available
Children Not Available

Karl R. Free Net Worth

His net worth has been growing significantly in 2021-2022. So, how much is Karl R. Free worth at the age of 44 years old? Karl R. Free’s income source is mostly from being a successful painter. He is from . We have estimated Karl R. Free's net worth , money, salary, income, and assets.

Net Worth in 2022 $1 Million - $5 Million
Salary in 2022 Under Review
Net Worth in 2021 Pending
Salary in 2021 Under Review
House Not Available
Cars Not Available
Source of Income painter

Karl R. Free Social Network




A cast-aluminum "white metal" eagle designed by Free, once prominently displayed above the front door of Whitney Museum's original Eighth Street location, was uncovered in 2015. It had been installed in approximately 1931 when the architects gave the building a “coating of salmon-colored stucco and a modernistic entranceway [of] severe white marble columns [that] support a giant entablature, itself topped by an eagle.” The eagle has been described as a “guardian figure…crouched protectively over the door.” The eagle was later adapted for the museum’s stationery. Free's 1931 design was later "sculpted by Lewis Iselin on a 1954 commission and cast by Roman Bronze Works." (The Whitney moved around Manhattan over the years; this bronze eagle was eventually relocated to Washington, D.C., thanks in part to efforts of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.)

The picture is sometimes locally called America Under the Palms. The postal-service operation relocated to 259 Nassau Street in 2015, and the building was sold to a private owner. The mural will be preserved as a historic element of the building. It is intended to be the centerpiece of a planned Mural Dining Room at a bar and restaurant.


In 2007, the General Services Administration, which is responsible for the management of federal buildings in the United States, agreed to install a movable screen in front of Dangers of the Mail, that would "incorporate revised interpretative materials to address the history of the art and the controversy associated with the mural." A "comprehensive interpretive program" was also developed for all 22 murals in the building, including all of those with Native American subject matter: Mechau's Dangers of the Mail and Pony Express, Ward Lockwood's Opening of the Southwest and Consolidation of the West, William C. Palmer's Covered Wagon Attacked by Indians, and Free's French Huguenots in Florida.


A 2005 complaint (filed on behalf of EPA employees) about six murals with Native American subject matter in what was then called the Ariel Rios Federal Building, asserted that French Huguenots in Florida “depicts passivity and submission toward the French explorers. American Indian men are naked or wearing only a loin cloth, and the American Indian women are bare-breasted.” As the controversy wore on, Frank Mechau’s mural depicting an ambush of a mail coach by Native Americans, Dangers of the Mail, became the primary issue (most of the original complaints were about the Mechau and Lockwood murals).


In 2000, as the mural's content was being challenged by students and community members, Village Voice writer Jyoti Thottam (since 2022, opinion-page editor of the New York Times) described it as "an ornate mishmash with neo-Classical pretensions." According to the Courier News of Bridgewater, New Jersey, in a 2004 report about ongoing public objection to the artwork, "The admittedly tacky painting depicts a trio of somber, ornately attired European men being led forward by an Apollonian figure and heralded by trumpeting angels. On the opposite side of the painting, a pair of red-skinned Native Americans rear back as if about to flee. The European men stand surrounded by the trappings of classical learning, while the natives half hide within lush jungle fronds…He even inscribed beneath the painting four lines of vapid doggerel, also open to racist interpretations, which has further incensed some observers."


(As a counterpoint, in 1991 some of Free’s circus paintings were included in a show called Under the Big Top at the Heckscher Museum on Long Island; a New York Times critic described them as “stiff, crowded compositions [that] fail to communicate the verve of the three-ring extravaganza.”)


By the late 1990s, writers in local newspapers were describing Columbia Under the Palm as, alternately, the “charming, if unlikely, get-together of Founding Fathers, Greek Gods, and several angels” or, a picture “unabashed in its racism and assertions of white superiority.”


In November 1979, while researching New Deal art of New Jersey for a forthcoming exhibit in conjunction with City Without Walls, Hildreth York of the Rutgers-Newark art department and Stuart White of Rutgers-Newark’s Robeson Center Gallery visited the Princeton mural. At that time they found below the mural a printed description of the piece, a biography of Free, and an explanation of the work of the Section.


In a 1970 memoir piece published in American Heritage magazine, Edward Laning recalled that in 1934, with the Great Depression well upon them:

Laning mentioned Free's suicide in the 1970 article, writing "Karl was of German extraction and had decidedly Nazi sympathies—during the first year of the Second World War he committed suicide." Francis V. O'Connor, who interviewed Laning and wrote the surrounding background material for the American Heritage article, cut the Nazi sympathizer comment from the Laning chapter of his book The New Deal Art Projects: An Anthology of Memoirs (1972). Berman’s Whitney history, however, citing “interview with Laning” expands on the Nazi sympathizer allegations, directly quoting Laning: “He thought the Germans had gotten a terrible deal after World War I, and consequently he was pro-Hitler.” According to Berman, Free had “wisely concealed his political views on the job, but he had a self-destructive streak” that ultimately led to his downfall at the museum.


In the oral history interview conducted 1962–63, Lloyd Goodrich described Free as "quite unworldly."


Free died by gas-oven suicide in his two-room apartment at 649 2nd Ave. in New York City in 1947. The police were summoned by a neighbor around 9:30 p.m. and broke down the door to the kitchen. Free's body was cremated and his remains were placed alongside those of his parents in the Ferncliff Mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York.


The Souvenir of Brussels (1929) that Free showed in Chicago in 1933 (or a picture with an identical name and date) was lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the C.W. Kraushaar Art Galleries for a show called "A Special Loan Exhibition of Contemporary American Water Colors" held October 16 to November 9, 1941. The museum purchased the picture for their collection that same year. Also in 1941, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased Free's watercolor painting called Waiting. The U.S. Department of State sponsored an exhibition called Contemporary Painting in the United States (La pintura contemporánea Norteamericana) that was sent to South America in 1941; it included Free’s watercolors Entry of the White Horse and Finale, pulled from the permanent collection of the Whitney.


The first published report of controversy about the mural’s content appeared less than a year later, in the university’s student newspaper The Daily Princetonian on May 14, 1940:

According to Avis Berman's history of the early years of the Whitney, their dismissal was effective June 1, 1940. Archer was let go because of belt-tightening, partially as a result of the Museum having overinvested in the 1939 New York World's Fair bond offering, which ultimately had poor returns.

Free was fired because he intentionally antagonized his boss, Force, whom he believed was a "tyrant and a peacock…her feminine frivolities were getting on his nerves." In May 1940, she asked him to make a poster for British war relief, his creation insulted both Force personally and the United Kingdom generally. Free apparently later wrote a friend that his firing was his own fault.

Free has two entries in the 1940 census, indicating he may have moved during the enumeration and thus been counted twice. In both entries his occupation is listed as curator/artist; one address is E. 15th Street and the other is W. 28th Street.

There are no apparent records of Free's activities after 1940 or of any artwork produced after 1941.


In 1939, Free painted a third post office mural, a tempera and oil on canvas-adhered-to-plaster piece called Columbia Under the Palm, for the Palmer Square Post Office in what is now the landmarked Princeton Historic District in New Jersey.

The mural was installed on Saturday, August 26, 1939. Per that Friday's Princeton Herald:


In spring 1938 Free was one of three jurors for the American Institute of Graphic Arts Fifty American Prints show, held at the gallery of the Architectural League on E. 40th Street.

At the time of their unveiling in February 1938, the "Art Notes" column of The Washington Star wrote of the murals, "These works resemble in general character paintings by Howard Pyle and C. Y. Turner made in the last decade of the 19th century and the first of the 20th. They are reasonably historical and essentially pictorial. They do not, however, mark any progress in art." In 1941, the New York Times called them “conventionally decorative.”

Free seems to have come onto the scene in May 1938. According to a now-lost typescript that used to hang near the mural, “Mr. Free was awarded his commission as a result of competent work executed for the Treasury Department art projects.” On the advice of local postmaster Stephen W. Margerum, Free would seek the guidance of the Princeton art and archaeology department as to the picture’s content. The only restriction was a dictate from Washington that there be no war-related subject matter.


In 1937, he designed costumes for the Ballet Caravan production of Pocahontas, composed by Elliott Carter. The designs are held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Four pictures from the larger collection of 25 were included the Lincoln Kirstein's Modern show in 2019.

According to Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, academic artist Leon Kroll (who completed two murals for the U.S. Department of Justice building in 1937) turned down the Princeton job in January 1938, writing, "I do not see why an artist of my standing in the profession should do the job under the circumstances…the [post office lobby] area is quite awful…dirty and lacks dignity." (Contemporary observers admire the 1932 Charles Klauder-designed Classical Revival building for its vaulted ceiling, Art Deco brass chandeliers, and extensive wood paneling.)


In 1936, Free had a pair of pictures, Acrobats and Fantasia, included in an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sometime between 1936 and 1938 (artists had a two-year window within which to produce their commissions), the U.S. Department of the Treasury Section of Fine Arts hired Karl R. Free to paint two murals, Arrival of the Mail at New Amsterdam and French Huguenots in Florida, at what was then the headquarters of the United States Postal Service (now the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building) in Washington, D.C.


In spring 1935, the Whitney put on the first-ever American show of abstract painting, primarily organized by Karl Free and Hermon More. Rebels on Eighth Street, the major published history of the museum’s early years, calls this “an act of vision on the part of More and Free…because they…were much more at home with representational art.”

On June 19, 1935, Karl R. Free, as "assignor to the Whitney Museum of American Art", was granted U.S. patent number 1,963,124 for an "assembled picture frame".

According to Karal Ann Marling's Wall to Wall America: Post Office Murals in the Great Depression, the image of the encounter between the French and Native Americans was rejected by the Treasury federal art department in 1935 because "the composition fails through the center." The same design was later accepted and publicized by the Treasury Department as re-enacting a "picturesque legend."

The mural was approved by a citizens committee led by Princeton art department chair Charles Rufus Morey. (Little information is available about this Princeton committee but a mural selection committee “delegated by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department” had been formed in 1935 to find an artist for the nearby Freehold, N.J., post office mural; the chairman was Peter Teigen of Princeton, joined by Morey, Arthur Pope of Harvard, and architect W.S. Holmes. Prof. Teigen died in 1936.)


(Whitney Museum director Juliana Force was also regional chairman of the Public Works of Art Project. The artists were protesting at her Whitney office against a government edict that she reduce the number of PWAP-employed artists by half from a maximum of 722 by May 1, 1934.)


Free contributed two essays to the catalog for the Whitney's first themed exhibition in 1932, "Provincial Paintings of the 19th Century, Audubon Prints, Colored Lithographs, and Thomas Nast Cartoons from the Permanent Collection," one articulating the artistic merits of scientific illustration represented by Audubon's work, and one on the history of lithography, a low-cost printing process that made art more readily accessible to the masses.


Free was hired in 1930 as an assistant or associate curator, responsible for prints, at the newly founded Whitney Museum of American Art. (Avis Berman, who wrote the major biography of Whitney founding director Juliana Force, says he was responsible for watercolors.) The other founding curators were Hermon More, Lloyd Goodrich, and Edmund Archer. At the time of the founding, Free and Goodrich were both noted as students at the National Academy of Design. Archer, More, and Free “lived in studios on the premises,” as did Beauford Delaney, who was hired as a museum guard, “with free studio and living space in the basement.”


In January 1929, he had a one-man exhibition of nine of his watercolors and oil paintings at the Whitney Studio Galleries on Eighth Street. There were four one-man shows, each with their own space within the building; the other artists were Henri Burkhard, Max Kuehne, and Joseph Pollet. Edward Alden Jewell, the New York Times art critic, visited the show and wrote positively of Free's painting: "There is magic in the lane that runs between dense rows of trees and in the Rising Storm. It is the delicate spell about to be cast, the sense of something hovering." Jewell also mentioned paintings called The Hunt and Legend. Rising Storm was reproduced in the "Exhibitions Coming and Going" column of the January 1929 issue of The Arts magazine.

In 1929, Free was included in a Whitney Studios show called the Circus in Paint. (Much of Free's work that remains in the Whitney collection takes the circus as subject matter; these pictures may date from this show.) Free’s The Parade was reproduced in a Vogue magazine article by Helen Appleton Read about this show. She wrote:

Free was included in a show at the Gladys Roosevelt Dick Gallery in summer 1929. Five “mounted watercolors” by Free, $60 each, were included in the Whitney’s 1929 Christmas sale.


Free was positively reviewed in a New York Evening Post article about the 1925 Whitney Studio show. In 1927, he had a painting listed for $150 in a Whitney catalog; the highest priced painting in the catalog was $3,500 for a picture by John Sloan, one of the leaders of the Ashcan School. (This may have been the 12th annual Whitney Studio show.) In 1928, he sold a painting, Landscape with Ponies, for $150, less commission of 20 to 25 percent, at a Whitney Studio Club show hosted by the Arts and Crafts Club of New Orleans.


In 1923, Free won a scholarship to study at the Art Students League of New York. His teachers included Allen Tucker, Joseph Pennell, Boardman Robinson, and Kenneth Hayes Miller. A newspaper art critic visited Pennell’s class in spring 1924 and reported that "Karl Free, in a delicately drawn composition, amusingly caricatures palm trees."


Online passenger manifests and library catalog entries describing Free's sketchbooks indicate that he traveled back and forth to Europe several times in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His 1929 watercolor Souvenir of Brussels was shown in the Art Institute of Chicago's Century of Progress exhibition in 1933.

Laning's recollection about the year of Free's death, as published in the American Heritage article, was mistaken, but he was not incorrect about Free’s ancestry. According to the rolls of the 1920 census, Free, his parents, and his siblings were all native-born Americans; his paternal grandparents were Dutch-speaking immigrants from Holland, and his maternal grandparents were German-speaking German immigrants. The Smithsonian Institution catalog record for Free's sketchbooks states, "Portions are in German," from which we can infer that Free was bilingual.


One of Free's younger brothers, Richard Henry Free (1914–2001), had a long military career with the United States Army, ranking as a lieutenant colonel at the time of Free's suicide and retiring as a major general. Maj. Gen. Free is buried in section 11 of Arlington National Cemetery. Free's other younger brother and his brother-in-law were both officers in the United States Navy during WWII.


Karl Rudolph Free (May 16, 1903 – February 16, 1947) was an American artist and museum curator, now best known for his New Deal-era post office murals.

Free was born in Scott County, Iowa, in 1903, the second of the five children of mail carrier Henry Rudolph Free and his wife Anna (Eckhardt). He completed four years of high school, graduating from Davenport High in 1921.


(“Father of the Constitution” James Madison and “Poet of the Revolution” Philip Freneau graduated in 1771 from the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University; Revolutionary War officer and Virginia politician Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III graduated in 1773.)

The Rutgers researchers identify the Founders pictured as Madison, Freneau and (rather than Lee) Hugh Henry Brackenridge, salutatorian of the College of New Jersey class of 1771.


The lines in the Free mural are quoted directly from the Columbian Magazine engraving; the Columbian image is itself derivative of an older 1770s engraving from L’ Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes. A literary historian notes that tropical Caribbean imagery of the Columbian engraving was “the last significant appropriation of the palm tree for national iconography in the publications of the early republic.”


Post office muralists hired by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts were encouraged to represent “local industry, scenery, pursuits or history.” In this case, nearby Princeton University is represented by the 1756 landmark Nassau Hall and “a clutch of Trumbull founding fathers” who graduated from the colonial College of New Jersey.


The French Huguenots in Florida mural is meant to depict the encounter on June 27, 1564, between Timucuan people and French Huguenots led by René Goulaine de Laudonnière. Free used a "1591 engraving by Theodorus de Bry of a sketch by Jacques Le Moyne" and a set of "1585–86 watercolors by John White that depict the [Algonquian-speaking people] of present-day North Carolina" as his visual models, resulting in a "picture that blends his cultural perceptions of the 1930s with the sixteenth-century source material."