Lot 128
  • 128

Oscar Bluemner 1867-1938

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Description

  • Oscar Bluemner
  • American Night-Red Glare
  • signed with the artist's monogrammed signature O. Bluemner, l.l.; also inscribed with the artist's notes on the reverse
  • oil on panel
  • 23 by 30 in.
  • (58.4 by 76.2 cm)
  • Painted in 1929.

Provenance

Mr. R.A. Ellison, Jr.
Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York
Harvey and Francoise Rambach, New Jersey, 1981
Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, 2000

Exhibited

Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 13th Exhibition of Oil Paintings, 1932-1933
New York, The New York Cultural Center in association with Farleigh Dickinson University, Oscar Bluemner Retrospective, December 1969-March 1970
Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art (and traveling), The Expressionist Landscape: North American Modernist Painting, 1920-1947, September-November 1987, no. 10, p. 106, illustrated fig. 47
Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; Ft. Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum of Art; Trenton, New Jersey, New Jersey State Museum, Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, December 1988-September 1989, no. 91, illustrated in color p. 64
Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, American Vanguards, January-April 1996, no. 46, p. 17
Youngstown, Ohio, The Butler Institute of American Art, Masterpieces of American Modernism: The Rambach Collection, January-April 1998, illustrated in color

Literature

Jeffrey R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner, New York, 1991, no. 91, p. 137, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Oscar Bluemner arrived in the United States from Germany in 1892.  Trained as an architect, he worked in Chicago and New York before deciding to pursue a career as an artist.  Bluemner completed his first oil paintings in 1911 and it was around this time that he met Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer who promoted the work of many of America’s most progressive modern artists during the 1900s.  Bluemner’s clearly defined forms of the streets, buildings and trees of New York and Long Island point directly to the influence of his architectural training and of Cézanne, whose work he saw on a visit to Berlin in 1912.  Stieglitz gave Bluemner his first one-man exhibition in America, which appeared at 291 in 1915, but the artist’s desire to leave the city, in addition to the advent of World War I, led Bluemner to move to New Jersey in 1916.  Though his isolation from New York furthered the artist’s theories about the expressive and emotive power of color, he found little success in New Jersey.  In 1926 he moved again, this time to South Braintree, Massachusetts, and around this time his ideas crystallized into many of his most successful works.  During his first years in Massachusetts, Bluemner began to experiment with combinations of watercolor, casein and varnish to create deep, hard colors with the fluid appearance of watercolor. Eighteen of these new works appeared in the artist’s 1928 exhibition at The Intimate Gallery, Stieglitz’s new venture after the closing of 291.

 

The following year, 1929, Bluemner returned to painting in oil. In addition to American Night—Red Glare, Bluemner executed twenty small-scale panels, which were exhibited at the Whitney Studio Galleries in New York.  To accompany the exhibition, the artist wrote an essay on the historical significance of color, particularly the color red: "Say: there is a feeling-world 'red,' and find out in life and nature what significances it takes on by way of directions and objective shapes.  For I told you that painting is imaginative color, and that realities are communicative by-play. . .Imagination, that shapes our loves and fears, contains the true reality of things and feelings.  Nothing but emotional imagination produces real painting, 'pure painting,' which is—potentially—color” (Jeffrey R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, Washington, D.C., 1988, p. 60). 

 

In Bluemner’s last solo exhibition in 1935, reviewer Margaret Bruening wrote in the New York Post, “His ‘landscapes’ are only points of departure to regions of subjective imagery ably sustained by the artist’s color patterns.  Houses or trees may be red or green, skies may be blue or crimson, it does  not matter, for the artist is not attempting to set down any realistic account of the world but an orchestration of brilliant colors, usually played in the upper reaches of the scale with big crashing chords of black to sustain a theme.  When Gauguin painted a violet-colored horse he affirmed the right of the modern artist to occupy himself with his own reactions to the world . . . rather than with its faithful delineation: in these canvases, which are only color improvisations, and very handsome ones, upon landscape themes, this point of view is emphasized" (Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, p. 72).

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