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Bluemner

About this collection

Oscar Bluemner came to the United States in 1892 from Germany, and continued his architectural career. By the 1900s, under the influence of the Modernist artistic circle of Alfred Stieglitz, he increasingly turned to drawing and painting, and gradually abandoned architecture.

Although his work was well received by critics, sales were poor, and he often lived in poverty. Anti-German sentiment prompted by World War I led him to relocate from New York City to New Jersey, where he repeatedly moved his family in search of cheap lodging. When his wife died in 1926, he went to live with his son in Braintree, Massachusetts, and supported himself with assistance from the WPA arts project. In 1935, he was severely injured in an auto accident, and never resumed painting. With his eyesight failing and in deep depression, he committed suicide three years later.

Bluemner painted a distinctive terrain of farms, factories and unkempt suburbs, which he described as “the intimate landscape of our common surroundings—the things and scenes most closely interwoven with the progress of life.” His depictions of the industrial hinterlands of New Jersey and Massachusetts combined political and social sympathy for the workers who toiled there with the most modern artistic language. The characteristic touches of glowing red in his paintings and his interest in color theory earned him the nickname “The Vermillionaire.” Strongly influenced by the Neo-Impressionists, he rejected their more scientific ideas in favor of more emotional and spiritual ideas about color. He once said, “I paint my attitude, I would be a composer, but being all retina, I saw it [his environment] all as color.”

In the last quarter century, Bluemner’s significance has been recognized in several important exhibitions and new publications, and a steady succession of his works has entered major museum collections. He is now widely acknowledged as a key player in the creation of American artistic Modernism, taking his place in the pantheon alongside better-known colleagues such as Georgia O’Keeffe and John Marin.

Oscar Bluemner’s daughter, Vera Bluemner Kouba (1903-1997), bequeathed her extensive collection of more than 1,000 of her father’s works to Stetson University in 1997. The legacy includes works in varied media, from pencil and charcoal studies to major works in oil and watercolor, and from every period of his production.

The Oscar Bluemner collection features various paintings from the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection which is now permanently housed in Stetson’s Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center.

 
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