A native of Hartford, Kentucky, Charles Courtney Curran studied briefly at the Cincinnati School of Design in 1881. After moving to New York City the following year, Curran enrolled at the National Academy of Design and continued his training at the Art Students League. He received early recognition and held his first exhibition at the age of twenty-three at the National Academy in 1883. This marked the beginning of a lifelong association with the Academy, where Curran proceeded to exhibit in an impressive sixty-one consecutive annual exhibitions, as well as nearly every winter exhibition from 1906 to 1932.
Between 1889 and 1891 Curran studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. His exposure to Impressionism there undoubtedly influenced him, for he painted in a brighter palette and paid attention to effects of light and atmosphere in his subsequent work. Upon his return to America, Curran divided his time between New York City and his house and studio near Cragsmoor, New York, where he was a leader of the Cragsmoor Art Colony. Founded by Edward Lamson Henry in 1883, the Cragsmoor Colony became a favorite retreat for landscapists, who were attracted to its clear views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Curran first stayed there as a guest of artist and writer Frederick Dellenbaugh in 1903, and eventually built his summer home there in 1910. William Gerdts writes “Cragsmoor enjoyed a new influx of ‘permanent visitors’ in the early years of this century. Charles Courtney Curran was undoubtedly the most renowned of this second generation.” Curran remained associated with Cragsmoor into the late 1930s.
At Cragsmoor Curran “specialized in rendering lovely women out-of-doors, sometimes in floral settings and more often set high upon cliffs.” In Mountain-Top Clouds, Curran does include women on a peak with patches of flowers springing up through the rock, but he focuses on another favorite subject of his, the voluminous clouds above. He clearly took particular pleasure in rendering the wisps and tendrils of clouds that break up the patches of intense blue sky.
Curran exhibited his paintings at the National Academy of Design, where he was elected academician in 1904. He also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Brooklyn Art Association, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Boston Art Club, in addition to numerous international expositions. His artwork is housed in important public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, among many others.