Skip to main content

Oral history interview with Robert Noel Blair, 1994 November 30-1995 August 27

Oral history interview with Robert Noel Blair, 1994 November 30-1995 August 27

Blair, Robert N. (Robert Noel), 1912-2003

Painter, Educator, Printmaker


Collection Information

Size: 2 sound cassettes (2 hrs.) : analog.

Format: Originally recorded 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 8 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 30 min.

Summary: An interview of Robert Blair conducted 1994 November 30-1995 August 27, by Robert Brown, for the Archives of American Art.

Blair talks about his father, a Vermonter, who went to Harvard Law School and became a corporation lawyer in Buffalo, and his mother, a Rochester, New York native, who went to Cornell and taught Greek and Latin in New York State schools before marriage; being an indifferent student until he went to the Albright Art School in Buffalo, although instruction there was perfunctory; attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1931-1934), recalling especially his two British drawing teachers, Guthrie and Burns, and Frederick Allen who taught sculpture, and fellow student, Carl Johnson, summers with his family in Vermont and the pleasant primitive farm life; his first teaching job -- Saturday children's classes at the Buffalo Museum of Science and his first exhibitions in Buffalo and New York City, including a show at the Morton Gallery, New York (1940) from which the Metropolitan Museum purchased a large watercolor; his love of using unusual implements to paint with; his service in World War II, in which he was assigned to design training aids and to paint war scenes.

Blair continues discussion of his service as an airborne soldier and artist in Belgium and Germany during World War II; returning from the War to direct the Arts Institute of Buffalo and his long friendship with Charles Burchfield; Philip Elliott, painter and teacher at the rival Albright Art School in Buffalo; traveling throughout the US and Mexico, painting wherever he camped; his work and proficiency in watercolor; and the value of figure studies, which he does regularly with other artists.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Blair (1912-2003) is a painter, printmaker, and instructor of Buffalo, New York.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.


Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

How to Use This Collection

Use requires an appointment.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Robert Noel Blair, 1994 November 30-1995 August 27. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.