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Property from a Prominent Private Collection

Pagoda (Red Tank West Quincy)

Pagoda (Red Tank West Quincy)
signed with initials in monogram 'Blümner' (lower left)—signed 'Oscar Bluemner.' and inscribed 'Pagoda. 1927' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
oil on board
15 x 20 in. (38.1 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted in 1922-27.
Mr. Harry Spiro, by 1969.
Terry Dintenfass, Inc., New York.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
Ahmet Ertegun, New York, by 1988.
Patty and Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art, acquired from the above, 1999.
Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, 2008.
Private collection, Michigan, acquired from the above.
Jonathan Boos, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2015.
J.R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner: Life, Art, and Theory, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, 1982, pp. 323, 511, fig. 81, illustrated.
J.R. Hayes, Oscar Bluemner, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1991, pp. 107, 125-26, fig. 80, illustrated.
New York, New York Cultural Center, Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938), December 16, 1969-March 8, 1970, no. 39, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy, December 10, 1988-September 4, 1989, p. 57, no. 79, illustrated.
Naples, Florida, Naples Museum of Art, Leaders in American Modernism: Selected Works from the American Modernism Collection, September 13, 2006-June 30, 2007.
New York, Hollis Taggart Galleries, Order & Intuition: American Abstraction from the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art, 1913-1954, September 18-October 25, 2008, pp. 23, 26, 44-45, no. 1, fig. 8, frontispiece illustration.
Winona, Minnesota, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 2015-2022, on extended loan.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

“I prefer the intimate landscape of our common surroundings,” Oscar Bluemner wrote, “where town and country mingle. For, we are in the habit of carrying into them our feelings of pain and pleasure, our moods.” (as quoted in B. Haskell, Oscar Bluemner: Passion for Color, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2005, pp. 44-45) Pagoda (Red Tank West Quincy) is a prime example of Bluemner’s powerful images inspired by these borderlands of nature and industry. Demonstrating the bold use of red which earned him the nickname “Vermillionaire,” Bluemner reduces and intensifies the scene into a dynamic arrangement of geometric and natural forms in contrasting hues, which incorporates his ever-evolving philosophies of art and, specifically, color. Begun in 1922 and then revisited and finished in November 1926, Pagoda reflects the artist’s urge to find order and meaning within a time of momentous change in both his life and career.

The present work was inspired by the town of West Quincy, Massachusetts, just north of South Braintree where Bluemner and his children moved in June 1926 following the tragic death of his wife Lina. At this emotional time, Bluemner’s repeated motifs of landscapes, houses and trees were not only meant as strong visual statements, but were also purposely composed to represent and communicate intense personal feelings and moods. He devised a chart that linked colors with psychological properties: he associated red with power, vitality and passion; blue with serenity; yellow with aggression; green with relaxation and rest; and violet with unrest. In Pagoda, the powerful reds of the buildings and oil tank in the foreground are juxtaposed with the relaxing greenery and serene blue sky, creating a balanced composition in both design and sentiment.

While imbued with powerful emotions, Bluemner’s art is also defined by meticulous attention to detail and exact planning, reflecting the artist’s initial career as an architect. Bluemner kept “Painting Diaries,” and the great amount of contemplation and formal analysis involved in the creation of Pagoda is evident in the pages of sketches and notes for the work in these journals. In his entry for November 19-23, 1926, Bluemner describes, “Brilliant red Oil Tank, bluest sky, white wall and at sides red houses…’Color + Line’…all pure color.” He continues by equating “The beauty of Factories…The Beauty of a red Tank and gas pipes” with “man’s Intelligence,” and stating his goal as “Each Thing (or Idea or feeling) and color by itself.” (Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886-1939, Box 1, Folder 55, Image 19, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)

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