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Arnold Blanch (American 1896 – 1968)

The Artificial Lake, c. 1930, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, signed lower right, exhibited: 1) Blanch’s solo exhibit at the Walden-Dudensing Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, May, 1930 (gallery stamp verso) (see Jewett, Eleanor, Arnold Blanch is Modernist Within Reason, Chicago Tribune, May 26, 1930; and 2) American Paintings and Prints by Members of The Woodstock Group, Woodstock, New York, at the Worcester Art Museum (Circulated by the College Art Association) from February 22 through March 19, 1932, #2 (listed in the catalog); three labels verso – the first presumably from the Worcester show bears the artist’s name, the title of the work, the selling price ($375), the insurance price ($250), as well as the Frank Rehn Gallery which represented Blanch at the time; the second label is likely from the Rehn gallery or the Walden-Dudensing Gallery since it bears a “bin number” and the selling price; the third label is likely in the artist’s hand and contains the author’s name and the title of the work. The verso also has a Dudensing Gallery stamp.


About the Painting

The entry for The Artificial Lake in the Worcester Art Museum exhibit catalog reads: “[Blanch’s] vision is marked by unusual largeness and comprehension, and by concern not with surface, but with the more fundamental properties of form. Mr. Blanch’s landscapes are particularly individual and attractive . . . Crowded with living detail but without any Bruegelish meticulousness, they are seen largely and generously; they give out a sense of growth and vitality and life, a genuinely rustic realism which does not preclude a note of grave poetry.” Blanch likely would have appreciated the author’s observation about “grave poetry” because Blanch viewed his work as a reflection of his own intellect and emotion, though in the final analysis, Blanch wrote of his art, “I feel it should be accepted or rejected on its visual merits, not on explanation.” Enough said.

About the Artist

Arnold Blanch was a key figure in the Woodstock (New York) art community during the 1920s through the 1960s. Born in Mantorville, Minnesota, Blanch grew up surrounded by equal parts the outdoors and the arts. His mother painted china and his aunt was an oil painter. Blanch recalled having a great revery for art from a young age, though he admitted that many times he would have rather been hunting and fishing. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Arts and the Art Students League in New York with Kenneth Hays Miller, Robert Henri, and John Sloan. During World War I, Blanch served as a solider in France, the first of many times that he would journey to Europe. He taught at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, at the Colorado Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, and the Art Students League in New York, as well as several other art schools. From his home in Woodstock, Blanch helped define the look and feel of rural modernism in New York state. Drawing on American vernacular scenes and an earthy, vaguely northern European palette, Blanch followed the dictum that he should paint the local surroundings of wherever he found himself. Blanch was fortunate to be a favorite of Juliana Force of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which acquired a half dozen of his works. His style during the 1930s and 1940s is what the American art world of the time viewed as a rationale modernism. Writing of Blanch’s solo show in 1930 at Chicago’s prestigious Walden-Dudensing Gallery where Artificial Lake was exhibited, the Chicago Times art critic Eleanor Jewett wrote, “The exhibition of paintings by Arnold Blanch . . . comes as a complete surprise. Blanch is a young painter, an American a modernist and an active member in the Woodstock group. Woodstock, modernist, young, are three adjectives whose qualifications are practically limitless. In the case of Blanch none of their tritest meanings are with significance. He is of the Woodstock clan, without being inseparably so; he is young, with a refreshing dignity of poise; he is a modernist in the sense of being original. His paintings are neither banal, imitative, vulgar, commonplace, nor bizarre. They are spiritly American.” During the Great Depression, Blanch worked as a muralist on government sponsored art projects. During the 1950s and 1960s, Blanch significantly simplified and flattened his forms into barely recognizable shapes in his increasingly abstract landscape and still life paintings. Blanch was married to the artist Lucille Blanch and later around 1939, he began a life-long relationship with another Woodstock artist, Doris Lee, who was also his former student, though they never married. Blanch’s work is many important museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and scores of others. He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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