Peter Blume (1906 - 1992)
Study for Two Rivers, 1942
Gouache on Whatman board
13 x 26 inches (sight)
Signed and dated lower right: PETER BLUME / 1942
Inscribed lower left edge: Sketch for Rome, Georgia
Private Collection, Florida
[Dawson’s Auctioneers, as agent, 2000]
Collection of Mark L. Brock, Carlisle, Massachusetts
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 studied art from the age of thirteen taking 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 League.
By 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 a well-known artists.
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. 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.