(1906 - 1992)
Peter Blume was active/lived in Connecticut. Peter Blume is known for surreal landscape-genre and figure painting.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Noted for his surrealist- tinged figuration called 'magic realism',
Peter Blume remained outside any clearly defined current of American
art, and throughout his sixty year career rarely veered from the quirky
narrative style he developed in his twenties. Born in Smorgon,
Russia, Peter Blume's parents emigrated to the United States in 1911,
and settled in Brooklyn, New York, around 1912. Blume's father
worked in the clothing trade as a 'marker', laying out patterns on
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Blume studied art from the age of 13 at evening classes, then at the
Educational Alliance in the lower East Side of New York, where he
learned about modern art and also met numerous artists. He then went on
to study at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, and the Art Students
By age nineteen his work was being shown by Charles Daniel, one of the
few art dealers handling modern art at that time. By the time he
was twenty, in 1926, he had a studio in New York. During the 1930s and
1940s the popularity of Blume's dreamlike paintings, filled with
obsessive detail, made him one of America's best-known artists.
In his work, Vegetable Dinner, completed when he was only
twenty-one, it is clear that Blume was already familiar with past
artistic traditions, including the Egyptian habit of showing heads in
strict profile and torsos in frontal view. The lower East Side of
New York, where Blume studied art, was full of vegetarian restaurants;
many immigrant radicals felt that a strict avoidance of meat went well
with political commitment. When Blume learned that a lot of people he
admired had been vegetarians, including George Bernard Shaw, Leo
Tolstoy, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he adopted the regimen for a time
His painting, "South of Scranton", exemplifies how he gathered
inspiration for his paintings from many sources. During an
extended car trip in spring 1930, Peter Blume drove through the coal
fields of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in his Model T Ford, and then headed
south toward the steel mills of Bethlehem, and on to Charleston, South
Carolina. Along the way, he noted industrial machinery, coal
piles, deep quarries, a smoking locomotive, and even men in gym shorts
performing acrobatic feats aboard the deck of a ship. (The
acrobatic men were real sailors in the navy on the German cruiser
"Emden" that had pulled into Charleston harbor during Blume's
visit.) About the work, the artist stated: "As I tried to weld my
impressions into the picture, they lost all their logical connections.
I moved Scranton into Charleston, and Bethlehem into Scranton, as
people do in a dream. The German sailors appeared to lose the purpose
of exercising and became, in a sense, like birds soaring through space."
Blume's admiration for Renaissance technique largely inspired his
working method. He would make drawings and compositional
cartoons, and then painstakingly transfer the images to canvas, a
meticulous approach that resulted in a surprisingly small body of
work. Blume was involved with a style called Purism, which
emphasized contours and simplified shapes. Purism deletes all the messy
and confusing aspects of life, leaving a clarified modern classicism.
Although he was individualistic, his work has also been linked to
Precisionist art, such as that of Sheeler and Demuth.
In his early work, such as The Parade (1930), held by the Museum
of Modern Art, New York City, he sought to depict through symbolism the
smooth, hard contours of the industrial world. His paintings, which
gained recognition in the 1930s, are precise and fantastic treatments
of modern social themes, painted in microscopic detail. Two of
his major works are the powerful antifascist Eternal City (1934-37) held by the Museum of Modern Art, and The Rock (1945-48), at the Art Institute, Chicago.
websites: infoplease.com; enclyclopedia.com; the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art;
Elizabeth Broun's writings on the website of the Smithsonian Institute;
David Ebony writing in Art in America.
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