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Catalog brings later work of artist Albert Bloch into public view

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


LAWRENCE – Artist Albert Bloch is best known for being the lone American to show in the first Blue Rider exhibition, which in 1911 helped lay the foundation for modern art. But a University of Kansas art history professor argues Bloch’s best work didn’t come until decades later when he was painting exclusively in Lawrence.

“The 1940s and 1950s is when Bloch came into his own,” said David Cateforis, chair of the Kress Foundation Department of Art History at KU. “He is making paintings that I wouldn’t compare to anything else in American art history.”

Cateforis is author of the 132-page catalog, “Albert Bloch - Themes and Variations: Paintings and Watercolors from the Albert Bloch Foundation,” which accompanies an exhibition of the same name showing at the Lawrence Arts Center until Jan. 2, 2016. Cateforis and Ben Ahlvers, Lawrence Arts Center exhibitions director, curated the show, which follows a 2014 exhibition of Albert Bloch’s prints and drawings at the Spencer Museum of Art and is complemented by “Albert Bloch: Scenes from the Life of Christ,” on view at Washburn University’s Mulvane Art Museum until Jan. 23, 2016.

A St. Louis native, Bloch lived in Munich from 1909 to 1919, associating with the founding members of the Blue Rider group, Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, and exhibiting extensively. He returned to the United States permanently in 1921 and in 1923 took a position at KU as the head of the department of drawing and painting.

Bloch died in Lawrence in 1961. In the years following, his second wife, Anna Francis Bloch, worked to champion Bloch’s legacy. In a house just off of KU’s campus, Bloch’s studio and study remained a time capsule with the artist’s easel, paintbrushes, paintings, correspondence and library largely untouched. Last year Anna Francis Bloch died at 101.

In 1997, scholars took a renewed interest in Bloch’s work with an exhibition of his art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The exhibition then traveled to Wilmington, Delaware, and Munich. In the same year, Cateforis, KU German professor Frank Baron and Helmut Arntzen edited the book “Albert Bloch: Artistic and Literary Perspectives.” Since then several major art museums across the country have displayed his work.

The Lawrence Arts Center catalog and exhibition holds nearly five decades of Bloch’s work from his early years in Germany when his early experience as a caricaturist is evident to his final years in Lawrence, when an extensive use of earth colors, whites and blues pervades his paintings. Many of the watercolors and a few of the paintings in the exhibition and catalog have never been viewed in public before as they were tucked away in Bloch’s studio for more than half a century.  

Throughout his career, Bloch returns to familiar themes – portraits, landscapes, townscapes, still life, lovers, clowns, religious subjects and shrouded mourners. The similar themes allow viewers to track Bloch’s evolution as an artist. Cateforis points to two clown paintings Bloch did, one in 1915 and the other in 1955.

“You see the dramatic transformation of his dark and heavy work in the 1910s to the brighter and livelier work in the 1950s,” Cateforis said.

Unlike fellow members of the Blue Rider group, Bloch never capitalized on his association with the Early Modernist movement and left the commercial art world in 1921. The decision allowed him to become a great individualist, Cateforis said.

“He didn’t want to keep hustling to try to sell his paintings, to get shows in galleries, to get reviews and the critics interested in his work,” Cateforis said. “It is that independence from the art market that freed him to pursue his vision.” 

The catalog illustrates 20 watercolors and 53 paintings, all in full color, and is available to purchase through the Lawrence Arts Center.

 

Image from top: Albert Bloch, "Arabesque: Masked Motley," 1955, oil on canvas, 26 x 30 inches, Albert Bloch Foundation

At right: "The Blue Bough," 1952, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches, Albert Bloch Foundation

 


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Museum Events

Approaches to Teaching and Learning African American History
Thursday, January 18 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, University of Kansas campus
This session will engage a variety of texts and academic disciplines and will benefit instructors teaching the 2017-18 KU Common Book, Citizen: An American Lyric. Please RSVP to firstyear@ku.edu.

Public Lecture: Representations of African American History in U.S. Politics and Popular Culture
Thursday, January 18 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.
Free and open to the public. Dr. Pero Dagbovie will speak on representations of African American history in U.S. politics and popular culture as part of the Langston Hughes Center Diverse Dialogues on Race and Culture series.

What's in a Frame?
Friday, January 19 | Noon-1 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316
1301 Mississippi St.
Join resident frame specialist and exhibition technician Dan Coester to learn how frames both protect paintings and shape our experiences with works of art. This behind-the-frames discussion focuses on significant restoration work completed for paintings on view in Civic Leader and Art Collector: Sallie Casey Thayer and an Art Museum for KU and includes examples of the restoration process and frames awaiting treatment.

Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
1301 Mississippi St.
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

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