Oscar Bluemner’s America: Picturing Paterson, New Jersey
Selections from the Vera Kouba Bluemner Collection, Stetson University, De Land, Florida.
This exhibition focused on Oscar Bluemner’s representations of Paterson, New Jersey, a once-thriving manufacturing center that became a center of social, political, and economic upheaval in the early 20th century. It was typical of American Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner (1867–1938) to neglect Paterson’s most picturesque natural feature, the striking waterfall that is now the centerpiece of America’s newest national park, in favor of the gritty surroundings of factories and workmen’s cottages in the industrial city. Paterson, for this artist, was above all identified with “the intimate landscape of our common surroundings,” “the portions of towns where the laboring people exist,” and the democratic essence of America. Paterson was an especially favored subject for Bluemner in the years between 1910 and 1917, the period for all 29 pieces in this exhibition, which covers the same moment in art and social history as the original Armory Show.