NORMAN BLUHM (1921-1999)
Norman Bluhm (1921-1999) embraced abstraction and propelled it forward, blending figurative elements, eroticism and calligraphic agility to arrive at a sensibility all his own. His work was informed less by artistic movements and orthodoxies, than by his own exceptional life and his rich knowledge of and respect for, the history of art.
Bluhm was justifiably secure enough in his talent and training to honor the European art scene and the history of art, without compromising his identity as an American painter. Bluhm initially studied the Bauhaus approach to architecture, while also spending his spare time learning to fly airplanes. After the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, Bluhm became a B-Pilot and flew 44 missions over North Africa and Europe, before becoming wounded and being sent home.
After the war, he decided to forgo his career as an architect and moved to Paris where he attended art classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the École des Beaux Arts. In 1956, he returned to New York and began a lifelong, successful career as an Abstract Expressionist painter. He was part of a vibrant and glamorous movement, socializing with a handful of art-world titans and collaborating with the curator and poet Frank O’Hara to create a legendary collection of Poem Paintings.
An important figure in the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, Bluhm enjoyed substantial critical success during his lifetime. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, all in New York.
Despite his accomplishments, he found greater solace in painting than in fame, academic theory or public relations. Gradually he moved farther and farther from New York, eventually settling in a still corner of rural Vermont. For him, the studio was the center of the art universe and whether in Paris, New York, or Vermont, he allowed himself to be led by its constant demands.