Jerome Blum papers, 1915-circa 1969, bulk, 1919-1935

A Finding Aid to the Jerome Blum Papers, 1915-circa 1969 (bulk 1919-1935), in the Archives of American Art, by Catherine S. Gaines

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Jerome Blum (1884-1956) was a world traveler who found artistic inspiration while living in France and traveling to the American west, Hawaii, Japan, China, Cuba, and the South Seas (including a 10 month stay in Tahiti). Blum painted landscapes and seascapes of Southern France, and the many places he visited, as well as still lifes of exotic plants and fruits. He was living in Paris at the height of the Fauve movement and incorporated some of its ideas into his work, first inserting bold colors into his fairly conservative Post-Impressionist style. Later, he used significantly more saturated color, intense light, and bold forms.

Blum studied at the Francis J. Smith Art Academy in his native Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He went to Paris in 1906 with Lucile Swan, a sculptor and fellow student who eventually became his wife. There, he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a brief period, studying with Luc Olivier Merson. Blum remained in Paris until 1910, participated in the 1909 and 1910 Salons d'Automne and received exhibition offers from Galerie Sagot, Paris, and Anderson Galleries, New York. While in France, Blum knew expatriates Jo Davidson, Arthur Dove, Samuel Halpert, Alfred Maurer, and John Marin. Halpert became a mentor of sorts, instructing him in painting Post-Impressionist landscapes, to which Blum soon added Fauvist color.

Once back in Chicago, Blum developed close friendships with writers Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and Ben Hecht that lasted for decades. His one-man show at Thurber's Art Gallery in 1911 received very mixed reviews ?? most likely it was the first time the Fauve palette was seen by Chicagoans, and most thought it too radical. When the mayor purchased a Blum painting from a 1912 Art Institute of Chicago group exhibition, the proceeds enabled Blum to visit the American west. Later that year, Blum and Lucile Swan traveled in Europe. They were married in Paris and took an extended honeymoon, continuing to travel in France until fall of the following year.

For a period of approximately 20 years, he exhibited extensively and enjoyed critical acclaim. During his many years of foreign residence, Blum returned to the United States periodically for exhibitions and family visits. He participated in a large number of solo exhibitions and group shows in the United States and France, including: Art Institute of Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, O'Brien Galleries, and Albert Roullier Art Galleries in Chicago; Ainslie Galleries, Brooklyn Museum, Delphic Studios, Katz Gallery, M. Knoedler and Co., Whitney Museum of American Art, and Whitney Studio Club in New York; Boston Arts Club; Galerie de la Renaissance, Paris; Montlcair Art Museum, New Jersey; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. Blum is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Blum returned to New York in 1924 and Lucile filed for divorce. An auction of his work was held at the Anderson Galleries that year; Augustus John, George Biddle, Chester Dale, M. Knoedler, Kraushaar Galleries, and Jo Davidson were among the successful bidders.

In 1925, he married Frances Baum, a psychiatric social worker. They settled in Dampierre, France for eight years, and during this period traveled extensively throughout the country. Always an unconventional and fiercely independent person, Blum's mental health was fragile and deteriorated markedly in the early 1930s, during which time his painting output decreased dramatically. They Blums spent part of 1934 at the MacDowell Colony, Petersborough, New Hampshire. Once his fellowship was over, they moved to Key West, Florida, where Blum became increasingly disturbed.

Blum was admitted to the Bloomingdale Hospital, a private psychiatric institution in White Plains, New York, in 1935. But after being diagnosed a "hopeless case," he was transferred to a state hospital. While hospitalized, Blum continued writing copious notes and made many appeals for release. He died at the Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1956.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of Jerome Blum measure 2.6 linear feet and are dated 1915-circa 1969 (bulk 1919-1935). Biographical material, correspondence, writings and notes, printed material, artwork, and photographs document the painter's personal and professional life, and extensive travels.

Correspondence with friends, relatives, colleagues, publishers, galleries, museums, and collectors documents Blum's personal and professional life. An annotated list of important correspondents was supplied by his widow.

Blum was an avid writer. He published several short stories, and recorded reminiscences, thoughts, and daily events in a series of notebooks. These notes were the basis for Life Answered, an unpublished autobiography (eventually, edited and completed by Frances Blum). Also included are extensive notes and writings on a variety of subjects, including his extensive travels to Tahiti. Writings by other authors consist of "critical statements about Jerome Blum" and some of Frances Blum's writings on Theodore Dreiser.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 6 series. Correspondence consists of two portions, one arranged alphabetically and the other chronologically. Writings of Jerome Blum are alphabetized by title; those by others are arranged by author. Biographical Material and Printed Material are arranged alphabetically by folder title. Photographs are categorized by subject: artwork, people, and places.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents and under "Names" when they are creators or contributors.


  • Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Works of art


Most of the Jerome Blum papers were donated and loaned between 1965 and 1966 by Blum's widow, Frances Blum. Additional papers received in separate accessions were donated between 1965 and 1966 and microfilmed. A typescript copy of the final version of Life Answered was received in 1969.

Separated and Related Materials

Portions of the collection were loaned for microfilming and subsequently returned to the donor, including typescripts of Sherwood Anderson's letters, most of Blum's Theodore Dreiser material and other writings, and scrapbooks. Although this material is not technically part of the collection housed in AAA, copies are available on microfilm reels D237 and D238.

How the Collection was Processed

Portions of the Jerome Blum papers received a preliminary level of processing at some point after donation. Material was typically microfilmed in the order that it was loaned or donated on reels D237-D238 and 2010. The entire collection was fully processed, arranged and described by Catherine S. Gaines in 2006. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Jerome Blum papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

Portions of the collection are available on 35mm microfilm reels D237-D238, and 2010 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

How to Cite this Collection

Jerome Blum papers, 1915-circa 1969 (bulk 1919-1935). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1933

This series consists of a publisher agreement, Jerome Blum and Lucile Swan's marriage certificate, passports and the transcript of a radio broadcast of Thomas L. Stix of "America's Grub Street Speaks" interviewing Jerome Blum on the subject of "Art and the Weather."

Box Reel
1 unfilmed Agreement with Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc., Publishers, 1929
1 2010 Marriage Certificate of Jerome Blum and Lucile Swan, 1919
(frames 820-821)
1 2010 Passports, 1915-1920
(frames 822-825; 1920 passport unfilmed)
1 2010 Transcript of Radio Broadcast, 1933
(frames 807-817)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1915-1966, undated
(Box 1; Reels D237, 2010; 0.4 linear ft.)

Correspondence with friends, relatives, colleagues, publishers, galleries, museums, and collectors documents Blum's personal and professional life. Noted correspondents include Sherwood Anderson, George Biddle, Kay Boyle, William Bullitt, Mary and Padraic Colum, Theodore Dreiser, Guy Pene Dubois, Max Eastman, John Duncan Ferguson, Buckminster Fuller, Emma Goldman, Frank Harris, Hapgood Hutchinson, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Rockwell Kent, Alfred Kreymborg, Allan Ross MacDougall,Waldo Peirce, Llewylyn Powys, George Seldes, Doris Stevens, Art Young, and Ossip Zadkine. An annotated list including many of these correspondents, with notes on their occupations and their relationship to the Blums, was supplied by Frances Blum and can be found at the beginning of this series.

Correspondence was received and microfilmed in two batches: the first is in alphabetical order, and the second is arranged chronologically.

Box Reel
1 2010 Annotated List with Notes on Correspondents Supplied by Frances Blum, undated
(frames 5-7)
1 D237 Adams, "Frankie," circa 1930s
(frames 90-91)
1 D237/2010 Anderson, Sherwood and Eleanor, 1921-1933, undated
(D237 frames 53-89; 2010 frames 8-89, 92-96, 112)
1 2010 Armstrong, F. S. ?? Biddle, George and Helene, 1933-1938, undated
(frames 97-98, 194-211)
1 D238/2010 Blum, Frances, 1925-1926, undated
(D238 frames 139-180; 2010 frames 103-138; 2 folders)
1 2010 Blum, Lucile, 1920-1921, undated
(frames 139-193)
1 2010 Boyle, Kay ?? Dos Passos, John, 1928-1940, undated
(frames 213-261)
1 2010 Dreiser, Theodore and Helen, 1936-1938
(frames 302-334)
1 2010 Drucker, Becky ?? Luhan, Mabel [Dodge], 1920-1956, undated
(frames 262-301, 335-445)
1 2010 McDougall, Allan Ross ("Dougie"), 1935-1955, undated
(frames 446-507)
1 2010 Marautaaroa (Queen of Tahiti) ?? Peirce, Waldo, 1915-1936, undated
(frames 508-552, 555-556)
1 unfilmed Powys, Llewelyn (with request from widow to borrow letters for publication), 1922-1940
1 2010 Proetzel, Bobbie ?? Seabrook, William, 1927-1928, undated
(frames 553-554, 557-560)
1 2010 Seldes, George and Helen ?? Stevens, Doris, 1927-1939, undated
(frames 563-611)
1 2010 Stieglitz, Hannah (Mrs. Albert) ?? Zadkine, Ossip, 1915-1963, undated
(frames 561-562, 612-673)
1 2010 Correspondence, Miscellaneous and Unidentified, 1922- 1963, undated
(frames 677-759)
1 D237 Correspondence, 1917-1941, 1951-1966, undated
(frames 2-52, 178-298; 1965 unfilmed; 4 folders)
1 D237 Obituaries and Condolence Letters upon the Death of Jerome Blum, 1956
(frames 299-379)

Series 3: Writings, 1915-circa 1969, undated
(Boxes 1-2; Reels D237, D238; 1.6 linear ft.)

This series includes notebooks which Blum used to record his daily thoughts and activities, and on which he based his unpublished autobiography Life Answered. Frances Blum relied heavily on the notebooks to expand the manuscript, eventually completing it in circa 1969.

Some writings by Blum, including material on China and Theodore Dreiser, Blum's draft of Life Answered, and drafts of portions of Life Answered - "Father and Mother," "Journal of the Last 20 Years," "Lucile" and "Marriage and Divorce" - were loaned to AAA for microfilming and were subsequently returned to the donor. These are available on 35 mm microfilm reels D237 and D238.

This series is arranged as 2 subseries:

3.1: Writings by Jerome Blum,,

Box Reel
1 unfilmed "At Sea," undated
1 unfilmed "Chicago Sunday Afternoon," undated
1 unfilmed "Dark Virgin" (see: "Resurrection")
1 unfilmed "The Fox-Spirit," undated
1 unfilmed Life Answered (unpublished autobiography; see also: Notebooks)
1 unfilmed Notes ?? "Narrative ?? life?little pieces of narrative to be worked into book," undated
1 unfilmed Drafts, Deleted Portions, and Fragments, undated
(5 folders)
1 unfilmed Manuscript by Jerome and Frances E. Blum (copyrighted 1967 by Frances E. Blum), circa 1969
(3 folders)
1 D237 Lists, 1915, undated
(frames 837-842, and unfilmed)
1 unfilmed Notebooks (source material for Life Answered), 1919-1942
(15 volumes in 4 folders)
Box Reel
2 unfilmed Notebooks (source material for Life Answered), undated
(26 volumes in 5 folders)
2 unfilmed Notes and Fragments, undated
(15 folders)
2 unfilmed Notes and Writings, undated
2 unfilmed "Resurrection" (also titled "Dark Virgin"; with untitled draft), undated
2 D237/D238 Tahiti, 1920, undated
(D237 frames 1753-1898; D238, frames 1-57, and not microfilmed; 2 folders)
2 D238 Tahiti Material (clippings, rubbings, sketches), circa 1920-1952, undated
(frames 58-68)
2 unfilmed Telephone Numbers, undated
2 unfilmed "To an Image of a Black Goddess from the Ivory Coast," undated

3.2: Writings by Other Authors, 1921-1950, undated

Box Reel
2 unfilmed Blum, Frances, "Theodore Dreiser," undated
2 D237 "Critical Statements about Jerome Blum," 1921-1950, undated
(frames 439-466)

Series 4: Printed Material, 1916-1965, undated
(Box 3; Reels D237, 2010; 0.4 linear ft.)

This series includes articles, a book, clippings, catalogs and press releases. Clippings include obituaries of friends, book reviews, and articles about general art topics and world events. Many of the articles about, or mentioning, Blum contain reproductions of his work. Miscellaneous items include Key West, A Free Port: Survey and Report, a concert program, Town Hall, New York City and a map of Ulster County, New York.

Box Reel
3 (hol) 2010 Article - "Nobody's Home" by Sherwood Anderson, undated
(frames 827-831)
3 (hol) unfilmed Book - The Verdict of Bridlegoose by Llewelyn Powys [mentions Blum] with Obituary of the Author, 1926-1939
3 (hol) D237 Clippings, 1916-1962, undated
(frames 380-438, and unfilmed; 2 folders)
3 (hol) D237/2010 Catalogs and Press Releases
3 (hol) D237/2010 Jerome Blum Exhibitions, circa 1918-1965, undated
(D237 frames 639-836; 2010 frames 794-806, and unfilmed; 3 folders)
3 (hol) unfilmed Harry Shokler Exhibition (foreword by Blum), 1928
3 (hol) D237 Clippings, undated
(frames 380-438, and unfilmed; 2 folders)
3 (hol) unfilmed Miscellaneous Items, 1934-1961, undated
3 (hol) unfilmed This Quarter (vol. 2, no. 1 and vol. 3, no. 2; with stories by Blum), 1929-1930

Series 5: Artwork, 1930, undated
(Box 4; Reel 2010; 2 folders)

Artwork by Blum consists of 10 pencil sketches. Artwork by others consists of 2 prints by Warton Esherick, inscribed to Blum, and 2 samples of Chinese calligraphy.

Box Reel
4 (pam) 2010 Artwork by Blum, undated
(frames 777-791)
4 (pam) 2010 Artwork by Others, 1930, undated
(frames 777-791)

Series 6: Photographs, undated
(Box 4; Reels D238, 2010; 0.1 linear ft.)

Box Reel
4 (pam) D238/2010 Artwork by Blum, undated
(D238 frames 74-1328; 2010 frames 768-774, and unfilmed; 3 folders)
4 (pam) D238 People: Jerome and Frances Blum; Jerome Blum, undated
(frames 64-73)
4 (pam) 2010 People: Unidentified, undated
(frames 764, 766-767)
4 (pam) unfilmed Places: Unidentified House and Well, undated