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Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886-1939, 1960

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 ft.

Summary: Correspondence, printed materials, exhibition catalogs, painting diaries, sketches, notes on painting, and photographs.
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's 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, 1911-1936, contain Bluemner's handwritten notes about newly-completed paintings and current work, amounting to a fairly complete record of work done during this period, including many sketches, color schemes, and information about his materials and techniques. The entries, although not daily, are extensive and extremely detailed. He writes of his philosophy of art, aesthetics, critics, his ideas on color and composition, influences on his thoughts, the role of the artist, the need for the artist to remain independent and uninfluenced by criticism, the work of other artists, contemporary art, exhibitions, etc. 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.
Additional Oscar Bluemner papers were loaned by James Graham & Sons, Inc. in 1968 for microfilming. Loaned material is available on reel N737 but is not described in this finding aid.

Biographical/Historical Note

Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938) was a painter from South Braintree, Mass. and Germany. Born in Germany and trained as an architect. Became a painter and moved to the United States in 1892. Became associated with the group of advanced artists associated with Alfred Stieglitz.


Unmicrofilmed materials and materials on reels 338-344 donated 1970-1985 by John Davis Hatch, a close friend of Bluemner and an art historian. Materials on reel N737 lent by Graham Gallery, 1968.

Related Materials

Additional Oscar Bluemner materials are available at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, and within the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection, Stetson University, Deland, Florida.


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

Location of Originals

  • Reel N737: Originals returned to lender, Graham Gallery, New York, N.Y., after microfilming.