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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Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art

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 the 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; Worcester Art Museum and Boston Art Club in Massachusetts; Montlcair Art Museum in New Jersey; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia; and Galerie de la Renaissance in Paris. 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. The Blums spent part of 1934 at the MacDowell Colony in 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 3.0 linear feet and date from 1915 to circa 1969, with the bulk of the material dating from 1919 to 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 document Blum's personal and professional life. Noted correspondents include Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser.

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.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms:

  • Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941
  • Blum, Frances, -1970
  • Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945
  • Authors--United States
  • Expatriate painters--United States
  • Painters--Illinois--Chicago
  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Painting, Modern--20th century--New York (State)--New York
  • Photographs
  • Tahiti--Description and travel


The majority of the papers were donated or loaned for microfilming between 1965 and 1966 by Blum's widow, Frances Blum. A typescript copy of the final version of Life Answered was received in 1969.

Separated and Related Materials

Originals of loaned material, including typescripts of Sherwood Anderson's letters, most of Blum's Theodore Dreiser material, travel in China, scrapbooks, and drafts of portions of Life Answered - "Father and Mother," "Journal of the Last 20 Years," "Lucile," and "Marriage and Divorce" - were returned to Frances Blum after microfilming. Although this material is not technically part of the collection housed in the Archives of American Art, 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. The collection was prepared for digitization by Judy Ng and digitized in 2016.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2016 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.

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
4 Folders; Box 1

This series consists of Jerome Blum and Lucile Swan's marriage certificate, passports, a publishing agreeement, and the transcript of a radio broadcast of Thomas L. Stix of America's Grub Street Speaks interviewing Jerome Blum on art and the weather.

This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Materials are arranged by document type.

Box Folder
1 1 Marriage Certificate, Jerome Blum and Lucile Swan, 1919
1 2 Passports, 1915-1920
1 3 Transcript of Radio Broadcast, 1933
Thomas L. Stix of America's Grub Street Speaks interviews Jerome Blum on art and the weather.
1 4 Agreement with Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc., Publishers, 1929

Series 2: Correspondence, 1915-1966
0.4 Linear feet; Box 1

Correspondence is with friends, relatives, colleagues, publishers, galleries, museums, and collectors documenting 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.

This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Materials are arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Box Folder
1 5 Annotated List with Notes on Correspondents Supplied by Frances Blum, circa 1965-1966
1 6 A, circa 1920-1955
1 7 Adams, "Frankie," circa 1935
1 8 Anderson, Sherwood and Eleanor, 1920-1941
1 9 B, circa 1920-1955
1 10 Biddle, George and Helene, circa 1934-1939
1 11-12 Blum, Frances, circa 1925-1965
1 13 Blum, Lucile, 1920-1921
1 14 C, circa 1920-1955
1 15 Cappick, Marie, 1935-1940
1 16 Colum, Padraic, circa 1928-1935
1 17 D, circa 1920-1955
1 18 Dreiser, Theodore and Helen, 1936-1938
1 19 Du Bois, Guy P´┐Żne, circa 1952-1958
1 20 E-F, circa 1920-1955
1 21 Fuller, Buckminster, circa 1958-1965
1 22 G, circa 1920-1955
1 23 Gump, Robert L., 1936
1 24 H, circa 1920-1955
1 25 Harmsworth, Desmond, 1932-1935
1 26 I-M, circa 1920-1955
1 27 McDougall, Allan Ross ("Dougie"), 1935-1955
1 28 Mitchell, Jonathan, 1934-1935
1 29 N-P, circa 1920-1955
1 30 Powys, Llewelyn, 1922-1940
Includes request from widow to borrow letters for publication.
1 31 Q-S, circa 1920-1955
1 32 Seldes, George and Helen - Stevens, Doris, circa 1935-1939
1 33 Sparhawk-Jones, Elizabeth, circa 1925-1935
1 34 Stevens, Doris, circa 1927-1936
1 35 T, circa 1920-1955
1 36 Torrence, Olivia, circa 1934-1935
1 37 U-W, circa 1920-1955
1 38 Worthington, Marjorie and Willie, circa 1932-1935
1 39 X-Y, circa 1920-1955
1 40 Young, Art, 1929, 1942-1943
1 41 Z, circa 1920-1955
1 42 Miscellaneous and Unidentified, circa 1922- 1963
1 43 Obituaries and Condolence Letters upon the Death of Jerome Blum, 1956

Series 3: Writings, 1915-circa 1969
2 Linear feet; Boxes 1-3

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.

This series has been scanned in its entirety.

This series is arranged as 2 subseries. Materials are arranged by document type and retain their order within each folder.

3.1: Writings by Jerome Blum,

Box Folder
1 Autobiography, Life Answered
1 44-46 Drafts, Deleted Portions, and Fragments, circa 1925-1930
1 47-48 Drafts, Deleted Portions, and Fragments, circa 1925-1930
1 49 Notes, circa 1925-1930
Narrative-life, little pieces of narrative to be worked into book.
1 50-52 Manuscript by Jerome and Frances E. Blum, circa 1969
Copyrighted 1967 by Frances E. Blum.
1 53 Diaries and Journals (1 vol.), 1935
1 54 Diaries and Journals (2 vols.), 1936-1937
1 55 Diaries and Journals (3 vols.), 1942
1 56 Lists, circa 1915-1930
Box Folder
2 1-3 Notebooks, 1919-1942
Includes source material for Life Answered; 6 volumes.
2 4-6 Notebooks, undated
Includes source material for Life Answered; 8 volumes.
2 7-9 Notebooks, circa 1920-1930
Includes source material for Life Answered; 11 volumes.
2 10-11 Notebooks, circa 1920-1930
Includes source material for Life Answered; 5 volumes.
2 12-13 Notebooks, circa 1920-1930
Includes source material for Life Answered; 7 volumes.
2 14-16 Notes and Fragments, circa 1920-1930
2 17-19 Notes and Fragments, circa 1920-1930
2 20-21 Notes and Fragments, circa 1920-1930
Box Folder
3 1-3 Notes and Fragments, circa 1920-1930
3 4-6 Notes and Fragments, circa 1935-1940
3 Short Writings
3 7 "At Sea," circa 1920-1930
3 8 "Chicago Sunday Afternoon," circa 1920-1930
3 9 "The Fox-Spirit," circa 1920-1930
3 10 "Resurrection," circa 1920-1930
Also titled "Dark Virgin"; with untitled draft.
3 11-12 On Tahiti, circa 1920-1930
3 13 Tahiti Material, circa 1920-1952
Clippings, rubbings, sketches.
3 14 "To an Image of a Black Goddess from the Ivory Coast," undated
3 15 Telephone Numbers, circa 1920-1930

3.2: Writings by Other Authors, 1920-1950

Box Folder
3 16 Critical Statements about Jerome Blum, circa 1921-1950
3 17 "Theodore Dreiser" by Frances Blum, circa 1920-1950

Series 4: Printed Material, 1916-1965
0.3 Linear feet; Box 3

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, and a map of Ulster County, New York.

The bulk of this series has been scanned. In some cases exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.

Materials are arranged by document type.

Box Folder
3 18 Article, "Nobody's Home" by Sherwood Anderson, 1935
3 19 Book, Verdict of Bridlegoose by Llewelyn Powys with Obituary of the Author, 1926, 1939
3 20-21 Clippings, 1916-1962
3 22 Exhibition Catalogs, Jerome Blum, circa 1918-1965
3 23 Exhibition Catalogs and Press Release, Jerome Blum, 1918-1965
3 24 Exhibition Catalog, Harry Shokler, 1928
Foreword by Blum.
3 25 Periodical, This Quarter, 1929-1930
Vol. 2, no. 1 and vol. 3, no. 2; with stories by Blum.
3 26 Periodicals, 1935, 1944
Mundo (vol. 8) and Nation (no. 3645).
3 27 Miscellaneous Items, 1934-1961
Key West, A Free Port: Survey and Report; NYC concert program, Town Hall; map of Ulster County, New York.

Series 5: Artwork, circa 1920-1930
2 Folders; Box 3

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

This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Materials are arranged by creator.

Box Folder
3 28 Artwork by Jerome Blum, circa 1920-1930
3 29 Artwork by Others, circa 1930

Series 6: Photographs, circa 1915-1945
6 Folders; Box 3

Photographs are of Joseph Blum, his wife Frances, and unidentified individuals and places. There are also black and white and color photographs of Blum's paintings of people, towns, still lifes, and landscapes.

This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Materials are arranged by subject.

Box Folder
3 30 People, Jerome and Frances Blum, circa 1920-1930
3 31 People, Unidentified, circa 1915-1945
3 32 Places, Unidentified House and Well, circa 1920-1945
3 33 Artwork by Jerome Blum, People and Towns, circa 1920-1945
3 34 Artwork by Jerome Blum, Portraits, circa 1920-1945
3 35 Artwork by Jerome Blum, Still Lifes and Landscapes, circa 1920-1945