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Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886-1939

Bluemner, Oscar, 1867-1938


The papers of Oscar Bluemner in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2008. The papers have been scanned in their entirety and total 15,820 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 6.9 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Oscar Bluemner date from 1886 to 1939, with one item from 1960, and measure 6.9 linear feet. The collection documents Bluemner's career through scattered biographical material and personal and professional correspondence. Almost one-half of the collection consists of Bluemner's extensive writings and notes about his artwork, painting techniques, and art theory in the form of diaries, notebooks, lists, essays, and notes - many of which are also illustrated. Also found are annotated books, exhibition catalogs, newsclippings, artwork and sketches by Bluemner, and photographs of Bluemner's artwork and of architecture. Bluemner's work in architecture is documented to a lesser degree through scattered licenses, photographs, and design drawings.
Biographical material is scattered and includes autobiographical writings, a list of published works, an essay for a Guggenheim fellowship application, certificates, legal documents, and membership records. Also of note are detailed technical diagrams of his studio easel. The small amount of correspondence in this collection is with family, friends, artists, art galleries and museums, art collectors and patons, and others. Notable correspondents include Stephan Bourgeois, Edward Bruce, Ernest Fiene, Arnold Friedman, Stefan Hirsch, Walter Hochschild, Margaret Lewisohn, Aline Liebman, George Ferdinand Of, Albert Rothbart, Alfred Stieglitz, and Ludwig Vogelstein.
Bluemner' extensive writings about his painting techniques and theories, and art history and criticism are found in painting and theory diaries, notebooks, notes, lists of artwork, essays, and writings for publication. Painting Diaries contain Bluemner's handwritten notes about newly-completed paintings and current work. Theory Diaries contain his notes on art theory. Both sets of diaries contain many color illustrations and sketches. Also of particular interest are Bluemner's notes and homemade notebooks on techniques which he often called "Easel Notes." Also found are notes on paintings he viewed in American art collections and four volumes of notes taken during his tour of Europe in 1912. Bluemner also maintained extensive notes on Chinese and Japanese art history and styles. Additional writings include a collection of notes he compiled and organized from his other diaries, notebooks, and writings for a book on painting.
Bluemner's papers also contain books and exhibition catalogs annotated with his notes and illustrations - many of which are on the subject of Chinese and Japanese art. Art motif and travel sketches contain motifs and artwork that Bluemner developed into themes for his paintings. Most of the travel sketches are of towns in New Jersey, but also include sketches and notes on Italy, which he visited in 1912. There is also a small sketchbook and drawings of buildings Bluemner designed.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs and announcements, some of which are annotated with prices and additional information, as well as news and magazine clippings, and prints of published writings by Bluemner. Photographs found in the collection include three photographs of buildings Bluemner designed, photographs of artwork, one print of Bluemner, and negatives.

Biographical/Historical Note

Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938) was born Friedrich Julius Oskar Blümner in Prussia in 1867. As a child he received some formal art training. He enrolled in the architecture department of the Konigliche Technische Hochschule (Royal Technical Academy), Berlin, and received his architecture degree in 1892. A few months later he moved to the United States and worked in Chicago as a draftsman at the World's Columbian Exposition. After the exposition, Bluemner attempted to find work in both Chicago and New York City, but could not find steady employment. In 1903 he created the winning design for the Bronx Borough Courthouse, and for the next few years had various intermittent jobs as an architect in New York. Around this time Bluemner also began writing down his thoughts on aesthetics, art history, and art theory, which he would continue to do for the rest of his life in various journals, diaries, and notebooks.


The material on reel N737 was lent by Graham Gallery in 1968. The rest of the collection was donated between 1970-1985 by John David Hatch, a close friend of Bluemner and an art historian.

Related Materials

Language Note

English and German English; German


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