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Curator's Comment: Oscar Florianus Bluemner was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1867. His first
one-man show of portraits was held at the Berlin Latin School in 1886.  In 1892 he won a medal at the
Royal Academy of Design in Berlin where he studied painting and architecture. But dissatisfied with
German restrictive aesthetic policies, Bluemner left for America that same year. By 1901 he was a
successful architect in New York, but between 1908 and 1910, Bluemner began painting in earnest,
making sketching trips throughout New Jersey and Long Island.  In 1910, the year he “kicked the
building business over,” he met Alfred Stieglitz, who sparked his interest in the artistic innovations of
the European and American avant-garde. In 1912 Bluemner sailed for Europe, where he had a one-man
show of landscapes at the Gurlitt Galleries in Berlin.  Stopping over in England, Bluemner toured Roger
Fry's Post-Impressionist exhibition at Grafton Galleries and became fully committed to the modernist
ideology. After Berlin, he traveled to Paris and Italy where he saw the work of Matisse, Cézanne, and the
Futurists, and created thousands of sketches inspired by the museums and scenes he visited. We offer
a sketch made at this time showing a view of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples he labeled Pompei. It
was Bluemner's practice to note coloration on his pencil sketches and then fill in over the pigment
signifiers in watercolor as is the case here, where on the wall of the casa to the left a faint "Pi" has been
colored over with pink wash.
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ARTIST
Oscar F. Bluemner
(1867-1938)

Pompei
water color & pencil
paper sketch
4.5 x 7

Artist Top Auction Price
$5,346,500

Our Price This Work
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Pompei from Bluemner's 1912 Italian Sketchbook
The Artist ca. 1920
Bluemner's Red Farm brought over $5 million in 2011
Returning to the  U.S., Bluemner contributed one landscape to the 1913 Armory Show and wrote an
article defending modernism for Stieglitz’s progressive publication Camera Work. The ongoing
connection with Stieglitz had a significant impact on Bluemner’s career—in 1915 Stieglitz gave him a
solo exhibition at his gallery, 291.  Bluemner’s paintings of this period were tightly structured
compositions in the Cubist manner blazing with Fauve-inspired reds, oranges, and contrasting hues.   
Stieglitz continued to support him and gave him a solo show in 1928.  The following year Bluemner
had a one-man exhibition at the Whitney Studio Galleries.Bluemner was fascinated with the formal,
emotional, and spiritual qualities of strong color.  He dubbed himself the “Vermillionaire” in reference
to his reliance on bright red hues for his houses and barns.  He explored his color theories in
angular, brightly colored landscapes, abstracted from nature.  His late compositions in oil or casein,
on which he often bestowed titles alluding to music, became more abstract, displaying heightened
emotional content, simplified masses, and pulsating color. Bluemner is today the object of renewed
critical and public interest.  In 2005–06, his career was the subject of a major retrospective, “Oscar
Bluemner: A Passion for Color,” organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.  
Bluemner is represented in private and public institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York; MOMA; the Phillips Collection, and the Amon Carter Museum, Texas. After his wife’s death
in 1926, Bluemner moved to South Braintree, Massachusetts, to live in virtual seclusion.  He
continued to paint and exhibit until he was involved in an auto accident and told he could never paint
again. The Depression led to his death in 1938.
Bare pencil sketch showing color notation
Bare pencil sketch showing color notation
Fully colored Italian sketch brought $4,000
Umbrella pines with distant Vesuvius
The same view today
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