Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis

Peter Blume, Tasso's Oak, 1957-60, oil on canvas, 81 x 96 inches. Private collection, New York. © The Educational Alliance, Inc./Estate of Peter Blume/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

November 14, 2014 - April 5, 2015

Please note that the exhibition dates have been revised

Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building

Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis is the first retrospective of the American modernist Peter Blume (1906-1992) since 1976. It will include 159 works, including 56 paintings and 103 drawings. The exhibition will reveal Blume’s central role in the development of American modernism and examine his impact on late 20th-century narrative painting.

Throughout his career, Blume crafted elaborate allegories that dramatize the growth of cities, the creative process, cultural memory, political power, and regeneration. A consistent theme in his work is metamorphosis -- whether in nature, manifested in dreamlike imagery, or as a working method traced in the numerous drawings and studies he made for compositions.

Blume was not a prolific painter but rather concentrated his efforts on a relatively small number of carefully conceived projects, each involving a long period of exploratory drawing. After 1930, Blume preferred to focus on ambitious, often large-scale, slowly developed paintings that explore multi-layered themes and express major concerns of the twentieth century. Nature and Metamorphosis will feature focus sections that examine several major projects that occupied Blume over many years. Blume developed these large-scale, meticulously designed paintings by thinking through drawing. Each was preceded by dozens of working drawings in a wide range of media made with surprisingly diverse approaches. Through this process, Blume discovered the formal structure and iconographic content of his major works, including Tasso’s Oak (1957-60) and The Rock (1944-48).

Drawing on a wealth of new scholarship in American modernism as well as numerous unpublished archival collections, Nature and Metamorphosis will consider the relationship between automatic drawing and precise painting in Blume’s practice, his relationships with an international community of artists and writers, and the political background of his imagery. A hallmark of his work from all periods of his career is its capacity to carry multivalent meanings, always rooted in human experience, but privileging the transformative power of the imagination.

Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis will travel to the Wadsworth Atheneum, where it will be on view July 3 – September 20, 2015.

Curator: Robert Cozzolino, Senior Curator and Curator of Modern Art

Presenting Foundation sponsor for Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis: The Henry Luce Foundation. Major support provided by the Boris Lurie Art Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and the Armand G. Erpf Fund,with additional support from Eric Brecher, and Mr. Jason Schoen. Funding for the symposium on Magic Realists is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

PAFA's special exhibitions in 2014-15 are supported by generous contributions from Linda Seyda and Bob Boris and Jonathan Cohen.


The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ public programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency).




General operating support provided, in part, by