"OSCAR BLUEMNER: A DAUGHTER'S LEGACY" COMES TO GW'S LUTHERW.BRADYARTGALLERY
MAY 13 - JUNE 30
"Oscar Bluemner: A Daughter's Legacy - Selections from the Vera Bluemner Kouba
Collection, StetsonUniversity" an exhibit of paintings, drawings and watercolors by
Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner.This exhibit is on loan from the Vera Bluemner Kouba
Collection, StetsonUniversity, DeLand, Fla.
Exhibition Dates: Thursday, May 13 - Friday, June 30, 2004
Gallery Hours:Tuesday - Friday,
The GeorgeWashingtonUniversity, LutherW.BradyArtGallery
Media and PublicAffairsBuilding - 2nd floor, 805 21st Street, NW
Washington, D.C. (Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro, Blue and Orange lines)
Free and open to the public. For more information call (202) 994-1525.
Landscapes of everyday modern society - mills, factories, small farms, unkempt suburbs - portrayed in brilliant colors and a variety of media, will fill GW's LutherW.BradyArtGallery beginning May 13, 2004, for one of the most comprehensive exhibits of the work of painter Oscar Bluemner ever presented. Bluemner (1867-1938) was one of the first Modernists, reaching his peak in the late 1910s to mid-1930s. He described his subjects as "the intimate landscape of our common surroundings...the things and scenes most closely interwoven with the progress of life."
Many of the works in this exhibition have not been seen since the artist's death in 1938. They are part of more than 1,000 pieces of Bluemner's work bequeathed to StetsonUniversity in 1997 by his daughter, Vera Bluemner Kouba. The original exhibition featured 86 pieces from every period of Bluemner's production, ranging from pencil and charcoal studies, annotated by the artist, to major works in watercolor and oil. They were selected by Curator Roberta Smith Favis to demonstrate the depth and breadth of the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection, as well as of the beauty and quality of the artwork. Lenore Miller, director of GW's ArtGalleries, visited the exhibition in its Florida venue, and worked with Favis to select more than half of the pieces from the StetsonUniversity exhibition to suit the dimensions of GW's LutherW.BradyArtGallery.
Often overlooked in his lifetime, Bluemner is now widely acknowledged as a key player in the creation of American artistic Modernism, with better-known colleagues such as Georgia O'Keeffe and John Marin. Through modern artistic language, his depictions of the industrial hinterlands of New Jersey and Massachusetts combine political and social sympathy for the workers who toiled there with the most modern artistic language.
Strongly influenced by the Neo-Impressionists, he rejected their more scientific ideas in favor of 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." The characteristic touches of glowing red in his paintings and his interest in color theory earned him the nickname "The Vermillionaire."
"The extraordinary quality and haunting beauty of Bluemner's work vividly affirm the central role he is increasingly accorded among the early Modernists," said Favis, a professor of art history at StetsonUniversity who undertook an extensive three-year historical investigation of the artist and his work while preparing for this exhibition. She will present a gallery talk at the LutherW.BradyArtGallery in June to be announced later.
Vera Kouba, who believed her father had been overlooked in the art world, was with the artist at his death and became the custodian of a large part of his artistic legacy. She preserved these works in her modest home in DeLand, where she had retired with her husband, Rudolph Kouba, in the 1970s. Since Oscar Bluemner was a strong advocate of the connection between music and the visual arts and Mrs. Kouba once hoped to be a concert pianist, the couple was drawn to Stetson through their love of music and appreciation of Stetson School of Music concerts. When her husband died in the early 1990s, she looked for ways to preserve and enhance her father's legacy after she was gone. She chose Stetson's DuncanGallery of Art as the depository for this important legacy. Before her 1997 death, she attended two small exhibitions of her father's work in the DuncanGallery.
Oscar Bluemner came to the United States in 1892 from his native Germany, and first continued an architectural career begun in Europe. By the early 1900s, under the influence of the Modernist artistic circle of Alfred Stieglitz, he increasingly turned to drawing and painting and gradually abandoned architecture. An extended trip to Europe spurred a dramatic modernization of his style. Back in the U.S., he took part in the Armory Show, the Forum Exhibition of 1916, the first Whitney Biennial and had solo shows in Stieglitz-sponsored galleries and elsewhere in New York City. Although his work was well received by many critics, sales were poor and he often lived in poverty.
Anti-German sentiment prompted by World War I led Bluemner 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, Mass., and supported himself with assistance from the federal Works Progress Administration arts project. In 1935, he was severely injured in an auto accident and never resumed painting. His eyesight failing and in deep depression, he committed suicide three years later.
Support for this exhibition was made possible by funds derived from The George Washington University, Luther W. Brady, M.D., and Friends of the LutherW.BradyArtGallery.