Robert Frederick Blum was an active and successful artist, versatile in a number of media and highly regarded as a pastelist. His vibrant and atmospheric work, which incorporated many of impressionism's techniques, helped pave the way in America for acceptance of impressionism.
Cincinnati in which Blum was born in 1857 was an artistic center, but he received his major inspiration when, like many other American artists of the time, he visited the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 in Philadelphia. There he was very impressed with works by artists of the Romano-Spanish School. He became such an important disciple of the well respected Giovanni Boldini and Mariano Fortuny that he became known as "Blumtuny."
In 1880, he encountered another profound influence when he joined fellow Cincinnatian Frank Duveneck in Venice. Duveneck's group was then associated with James McNeill Whistler. Whistler's pictorial technique, if not his rejection of narrative interest in painting, can be seen reflected in much of Blum's work, and Whistler was a strong influence on Blum's interest in etching and pastel.
Indeed, in New York City in the 1880s, Blum became president of the Society of Painters in Pastel. Through this society, and with his colleague and friend William Merritt Chase, Blum exerted a perceptible sway over the development of American taste.
Blum's paintings combine energetic and fluid brushwork with great attention to atmosphere and light. His subject matter was often drawn from his travels, first in Europe and later in Japan, where he was one of the first American artists to paint and travel.
He was successful not only as a painter but also as an illustrator and muralist. A series of his
illustrations, created during his trip to Japan, was published in Scribner's Magazine, and he demonstrated his skill as a muralist in the wall panels he created for the old Mendelssohn Glee Club Hall in New York City, which were preserved in the Brooklyn Museum.
Associate, National Academy of Design, 1892
National Academy of Design, 1893
Society of American Artist
American Water Color Society
Society of Mural Painters
Society of Painters in Pastel
Paris Exposition, 1889 (medals), 1900 (medal)
Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (gold medal)
Cincinnati Art Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City