The Poor Farm

The Poor Farm
Oscar Bluemner

Artist Biography
Acquisition Number: 997.2
Medium: Watercolor on paper
Size: 9 1/2" x 12 1/2"
Date: 1924
Credit: From the James C. & Barbara J. Koppe Collection

When Oscar Bluemner immigrated to America from Germany, he brought his belief that art is an expression of inner consciousness, accomplished through color. He was inspired by German Expressionists and color psychology, where each color could make the viewer feel a specific emotion (yellow was warmth, for example, while black was sadness). Bluemner’s painting process began with numerous sketches made on-site in which he sought to capture the scene’s mood through color. To ensure accuracy, he often included color annotations on the back of his sketches along with information about the hour, date, weather conditions, and location. Once, in 1915, Bluemner and his son were briefly held for espionage — the authorities thought his color sketches were codes for German spies. Bluemner was so enamored with color that he said the following about it: "Every color has a specic effect on our feelings – a color and shape produces an emotion." "When you FEEL colors, you will understand the WHY of their forms." In "The Poor Farm," Bluemner used his signature color, vermilion red. He was a man obsessed by red, using vermilion so often he called himself the Vermilionaire. The Washington Post wrote: "His spirit, his whole soul, was handcuffed to that red. The subject of his works was simple, yet the vermilion red lends them a strange magic." To Bluemner, red was a symbol of power, vitality, life, and struggle. Green was the opposite of red — relaxing, and used to enhance the red.