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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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Pompei, Sketch Book Page, 4.5 x 7, Water Color & Pencil on Paper
Pompei from Bluemner's 1912 Italian Sketchbook
Oils Bring Millions Sketches Sell For Thousands
The Artist ca. 1920
Red Farm brought
$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 Great Depression led to his death in 1938.
Bare pencil sketch
showing color notation
Colored Italian sketch
brought $4,000
Umbrella pines withdistant Vesuvius
The same view today
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