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Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck)
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About the item

Oscar Floranius Bluemner (1867-1938)\nIllusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck)\nsigned 'Bluemner' (lower right)\noil on canvas\n30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)\nPainted in 1915.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Painted in 1915, Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck) is a powerful symphony of form and color and a seminal work that was exhibited in Bluemner's first one man show at Alfred Stieglitz's celebrated, avant-garde gallery, "291." This masterwork is also one of the earliest, large-scale paintings to manifest Bluemner's fully developed and highly personal visual lexicon.

As with Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck), Bluemner often chose to take his surroundings as his subject matter, rendering them in a thoroughly modern fashion. He wrote of this predilection, "I prefer the intimate landscape of our common surroundings, where town and country mingle. For, we are in the habit to carry into them our feelings of pain and pleasure, our moods, in fact Nature with her own color combinations causes our soul to vibrate and furnishes themes." (as quoted in R.S Favis, "Painting 'the Red City': Oscar Bluemner's Jersey Silkmills" in American Art, spring 2003, p. 32) Here Bluemner masterfully employs color as expression and reduces the landscape in order to capture his emotional response to the setting. He simplifies trees, river, hills and buildings, rendering them with broad, emotive brushwork to create a powerful, restless and captivating composition. Bluemner's choice of mundane subject matter distinguished him from his contemporaries and displays the thoroughly individual nature of his art. "While other members of the Stieglitz circle expressed modernity through the dramatic representation of the urban sublime evoked in the vertical city of soaring skyscrapers and, in later years, tended to turn to remote and dramatic wilderness themes, Bluemner preferred less overtly dramatic fare throughout his life." ("Painting 'the Red City': Oscar Bluemner's Jersey Silkmills," pp. 32-33)

Bluemner's style too, was drastically different from that of his contemporaries. At the time John Marin and Georgia O'Keeffe were exploring the possibility of watercolor while Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove were largely experimenting with more overtly abstract compositions. The robust clarity of Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck) is a unique characteristic of Bluemner's work. His training as an architect greatly influenced his art and, indeed, his keen attention to line, form, weight and balance is evident in the present work and in all of his great paintings. The repetition of forms throughout the composition imbues the work with a dynamic energy and pulsing rhythm. This is further heightened by the juxtaposition of the architectural and natural forms, of straight and curving lines and rectilinear and circular forms. Bluemner's creative process also manifested his architectural background. He was methodical, often working through an image in a smaller format in watercolor, or creating a sketch before beginning work on a large composition. He used these sketches to clarify his composition and often made color notes to be applied to the final work. A large-scale sketch exists for the present work titled Study for Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Sparkhill)/Red Farm at Pochuck that also dates from 1915 and is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Although there is a strong focus in his art on form, color was the most important compositional element to Bluemner. He believed that color should be used as an expressive tool rather than to accurately transcribe a scene and, reminiscent of Der Blaue Reiter artist Wassily Kandinsky, he saw a connection between color and music. He wrote "To clearly and masterfully show new original color beauty as a result of our own general ideas of color, on the things around us, is the problem of the modern colorist and it is now more nearly related to musical art, than ever before. Color now is not a phenomenon of light or atmosphere or of a societies [sic] state of mind (power, historical subjects, vanity, religion, etc.) but individual relation to modern mans [sic] culture, and aspirations, the result of all achievements of modern life, especially in science, technique, literature and...music." ("Painting 'the Red City': Oscar Bluemner's Jersey Silkmills," p. 33) In Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck), Bluemner juxtaposes rich vermilions -- his signature shade, which he saw as symbolizing "blood, vitality, majesty, lover, religious ecstasy" ("Painting 'the Red City': Oscar Bluemner's Jersey Silkmills," p. 40) -- with acidic greens, each heightening the effect of the other, and sets this tonal dialogue against the deep blue backdrop of a shaded hillside. This blue corresponds to the thin, horizontal sliver of a river that runs through the foreground, creating unity in the composition while flattening the pictorial space to underscore the formal qualities of the work.

Bluemner would continue to explore the effects of form and color throughout his career. Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck) is an early triumph and a powerful, dramatic composition that manifests Bluemner's fully developed artistic vision, one that was both thoroughly unique and decisively modern.

title

Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck)

medium

Oil on canvas

prelot

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

signed

Signed 'Bluemner' (lower right)

creator

Oscar Florianus Bluemner

keywords

Oscar Florianus Bluemner , 20th Century, Paintings, oil, United States of America, landscape

exhibited

New York, Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, Paintings, Drawings: Oscar Bluemner, November 10-December 7, 1915.

New York, James Graham & Sons, Retrospective Exhibition: Oscar F. Bluemner, 1867-1938, November 15-December 10, 1956, no. 16 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

New York, James Graham & Sons, Oscar Bluemner 1867-1938, December 7-31, 1960, no. 5 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Roots of Abstract Art in America 1910-1930, December 2, 1965-January 6, 1966 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

New York, James Graham & Sons, Oscar Bluemner, December 1-30, 1967, no. 12 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

New York, New York Cultural Center, Oscar Bluemner--Paintings, Drawings, December 16, 1969-March 8, 1970, no. 10 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

New York, Bernard Danenberg Galleries, Inc., Oscar Bluemner: Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, February 8-26, 1972, no. 42 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

Newark, Delaware, University of Delaware, and elsewhere, Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in America, 1910-1925, April 4-May 18, 1975 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, Oscar Bluemner: A Retrospective Exhibition, March 16-May 4, 1985, no. 7.

Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, and elsewhere, Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, December 10, 1988-February 19, 1989, no. 53 (as Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Sparkhill)).

Newport Beach, California, Orange County Museum of Art, Villa America: American Moderns, 1900-1950, June 4, 2005-December 31, 2006, no. 4.

department

AMERICAN ART

dimensions

30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)

literature

James Graham & Sons, Retrospective Exhibition: Oscar F. Bluemner, 1867-1938, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1956, n.p., no. 16 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

James Graham & Sons, Oscar Bluemner, 1867-1938, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1960, n.p., no. 5 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

M. Breuning, "Bluemner's Countryside...," Arts, vol. XXXV, December 1960, p. 48, illustrated (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Roots of Abstract Art in America 1910-1930, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1965, n.p., illustrated (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

James Graham & Sons, Oscar Bluemner, 1867-1939, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1967, n.p., no. 12 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

Fogg Art Museum, Oscar Bluemner: American Colorist, exhibition catalogue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1967, pp. 47-48.

New York Cultural Center, Oscar Bluemner--Paintings, Drawings, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1969, n.p., no. 10, illustrated (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

Bernard Danenberg Galleries, Inc., Oscar Bluemner: Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1972, pp. 16-17, no. 42, illustrated (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

C. Ratcliff, "New York Letter," Art International, vol. XVI, no. 4, April 20, 1972, p. 30, illustrated.

University of Delaware, Delaware Art Museum, Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in America, 1910-1925, exhibition catalogue, Wilmington, Delaware, 1975, pp. 35, 172, illustrated (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

J. Brodsky, "Oscar Bluemner in Black and White," William Benton Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. I, no. 5, 1977, p. 9 (as Red Farm at Pochuck).

J.R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner: Life, Art, and Theory, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, 1982, p. 274.

J.R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner: A Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1985, n.p., fig. 7, no. 7, illustrated.

R.S. Appelhof, et al., The Expressionist Landscape: North American Modernist Painting, 1920-1947, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham, Alabama, 1988, pp. 92-93 (as Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey).

J.R. Hayes, Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1988, p. 43, no. 53, illustrated (as Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Sparkhill)).

E. Armstrong, Villa America: American Moderns, 1900-1950, exhibition catalogue, Newport Beach, California, 2005, p. 119, no. 4.

provenance

Private collection, New York.

James Graham & Sons, New York.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Plotch, New York.

[With]ACA Galleries and Barbara Mathes Gallery, Inc., New York.

Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1984.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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