The Poor Farm

The Poor Farm
Oscar Bluemner
1867 - 1938
Acquisition Number: 997.2
Medium: Paper
Size: 9 1/2" x 12 1/2"
Date: 1924

Oscar Bluemner, an early Modernist painter, seemed to have been born under an ill-fated star. Trained as an architect in Germany where he was born in 1867, Bluemner immigrated to the United States in 1892. He went to Chicago, worked as a draughtsman, and then settled in New York where he designed a courthouse in the Bronx. Having received a diploma and award for painting years before in Berlin, Bluemner decided in 1910 to work only as an artist. After a trip to Europe in 1912, his style changed radically. His preferred subjects remained buildings in landscape settings, but the colors turned bright and harsh and details grew sharp. These hard-edged, unpopulated landscapes were the forerunners of the Precisionist movement in the 1920s. He was generally ignored with the exception of gallery owner and photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, who gave him a one-man show. Bluemner was an intellectual who had been influenced by Cezanne and Van Gogh. He allowed mystical elements – large suns and moons, evocative night views – to enter his art, tempering his harsh forms with an element of fantasy. As a painter, his subjects were influenced by his living conditions, and he lived a very poor existence in a factory district. He was certainly a prophet of color; he wrote, “every color has a specific effect in our feelings – a color and shape produces an emotion”. Before his death by suicide, his paintings grew simpler and more expansive. The result is a deeply personal, somewhat fearful vision of nature, but Scholars feel they remained bound by the spatial constrictions of his earlier architectural training.