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“Oscar Bluemner and the Orient” opens Aug. 14, Hand Art Center

Oscar Bluemner and the Orient: Works from Stetson University’s Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection

Bluemner, NW BoontonTang

Oscar Bluemner’s NW Boonton Tang, c. 1920, watercolor on paper

Opening Reception: Friday, Aug. 28, 6-8 p.m., Hand Art Center

Aug. 14 – Dec. 4, 2015, Hand Art Center, Stetson University

The exhibition Oscar Bluemner and the Orient: Works from the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection features a selection of artworks by American Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938) shown alongside Japanese woodblock prints from the artist’s own collection. The exhibition continues the project of the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center to display and interpret the extensive collection of art and archival material bequeathed to Stetson University by the artist’s daughter. The selections by Bluemner chosen for this exhibit by curator, Dr. Roberta Smith Favis, professor emerita of Art History at Stetson University, reflect the many ways that his study of the art and thought of Asia informed his own artistic ideas and practice.

The central role of landscape painting in non-Western arts resonated strongly with Bluemner, who saw landscape painting as both innately spiritual and profoundly self-expressive. Unlike many westerners who simply appropriated the visual effects of Asiatic arts, Bluemner sought to inform his vision by studying Buddhism, Taoism, and the many of the classic texts of Oriental religion and philosophy.

Japanese art

Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), Numazu: Twilight, from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road, c. 1833-34, woodcut print, ink and color on paper

Bluemner read and copiously annotated many books and articles on the art of the East, and took advantage of every opportunity to visit exhibitions and museums where this art was on display. An important early influence came in the form of Japanese woodblock prints, which had been widely admired and collected by avant-garde artists in both Europe and America from the time of the opening of Japan in 1854. Bluemner’s personal collection of 28 Japanese prints was included in his daughter’s bequest to Stetson University. Eleven of these prints, newly conserved with the help of a grant from the Stockman Family Foundation, are shown here for the first time.

A lecture series in conjunction with Oscar Bluemner and the Orient will provide insights into the many ways that Bluemner and other modernists appropriated varying aspects of Asiatic thought in the effort to reinvigorate art and even fashion. Curator Favis, will present a talk entitled “Japonisme: Modernism, Japanese Prints, and Oscar Bluemner,” on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Favis has served as curator of the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection since 2000. On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Dr. Adeline Julia Guy will present “Oscar Bluemner and the East.” Guy is an expert of the work of Oscar Bluemner, and currently serves as registrar for the prestigious London gallery, White Cube. Dr. Ekaterina Kudryavtseva, assistant professor of Art History at Stetson, will conclude the lecture series on Tuesday, Oct. 20, with the lecture “Risquée: Orientalist Fashion in France.” All of the lectures, which are free and open to the public, will be presented at 7 p.m., in Room 25 of the duPont-Ball Library, 134 E. Minnesota Ave., DeLand.

For more information about the Hand Art Center at Stetson University, contact Tonya Curran, director of Stetson’s Hand Art Center, 386-822-7271, or visit Stetson’s Department of Creative Arts online.

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