Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Jerome Blum Papers, 1915-circa 1969, bulk 1919-1935, in the Archives of American Art

Collection ID:
Blum, Jerome, 1884-1956
1915-circa 1969
bulk 1919-1935
Physical Description:
3 Linear feet
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.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
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 These notes were the basis for Life Answered, an unpublished autobiography (eventually, edited and completed by Frances Blum).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.

The collection is arranged as 6 series.
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1933 (4 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1915-1966 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 3: Writings, 1915-circa 1969 (2 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
  • Series 4: Printed Material, 1916-1965 (0.3 linear feet; Box 3)
  • Series 5: Artwork, circa 1920-1930 (2 folders; Box 3)
  • Series 6: Photographs, circa 1915-1945 (6 folders; Box 3)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
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.

Catherine S. Gaines
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
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 Material
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.
Alternative Forms Available
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.
Processing Information
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.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
Jerome Blum papers, 1915-circa 1969, bulk 1919-1935. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Illinois -- Chicago Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Expatriate painters -- United States Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tahiti -- Description and Travel Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Authors -- United States Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blum, Frances, -1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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