Hyman Bloom

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Hyman Bloom
Hyman Bloom.jpg
Born Hyman Melamed
(1913-08-18)August 18, 1913
Brunavišķi, Latvia
Died August 26, 2009(2009-08-26) (aged 96)
Nashua, NH, United States
Nationality American
Education Harvard University
Known for Painting
Spouse(s) Nina Bohlen (1954-1961)
Stella Caralis (1978-2009)

Hyman Bloom (b. Brunavišķi, now part of Latvia, then part of Russian Empire, August 18, 1913; d. Nashua, New Hampshire, United States, August 26, 2009) was a painter. His work is influenced by his Jewish heritage and Eastern religions as well as by artists including Altdorfer, Grünewald, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Blake, Bresdin, Ensor and Soutine. Many of his works feature macabre subjects such as corpses and autopsy scenes based upon his experience in a morgue as well as influences including Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) and Chaim Soutine's Carcass of Beef (1925), and have modern-day comparisons to Damien Hirst's experiences in a morgue and dissected animal sculptures. Bloom's still life paintings explore the theme of the harrowing and the beautiful creating modern-day vanitas paintings featuring Amphora pottery that was influenced by the Aesthetic Movement and Symbolists. His drawings and paintings of the Lubec, Maine woods explore the relationship between the natural and spiritual realms.

Early life[edit]

Hyman Bloom (né Melamed) was born into an orthodox Jewish family in the tiny Jewish village of Brunavišķi, in the Bauska District of the Zemgale region of southern Latvia, near the town of Bauska and about 45 miles south of Riga near the Lithuanian border. He was one of six children born to Joseph and Anna Melamed. His father was a leather worker. Brunavišķi was a poor village in an area torn by civil unrest, where Jews lived in fear of persecution. The family emigrated to the United States in 1920, joining the two eldest sons, Samuel and Morris, in Boston. By that time the two brothers had changed their family name to Bloom and started their own leather business. The extended family lived in a three-room tenement apartment in Boston's West End.[1]

At a young age Bloom planned to become a rabbi,[2] but his family could not find a suitable teacher. In the eighth grade he received a scholarship to a program for gifted high school students at the Museum of Fine Arts. He attended the Boston High School of Commerce, which was near the museum.[3] He also took art classes at the West End Community Center, a settlement house. The classes were taught by Harold Zimmerman, a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, who also taught the young Jack Levine at another settlement house in Roxbury. When Bloom was fifteen, he and Levine began studying with a well-known Harvard art professor, Denman Ross, who rented a studio for the purpose and paid the boys a weekly stipend to enable them to continue their studies rather than take jobs to support their families.[4] Ross sponsored Bloom from 1928 to 1933.[5] Ross also sponsored Harold Zimmerman, who died in 1941 while still in his thirties. Bloom, along with Levine and another painter, Karl Zerbe, eventually became associated with a style named Boston Expressionism.[6]


In the late 1930s Bloom worked sporadically for the Public Works of Art Project and the Federal Art Project, and for his brothers.[7] It was during this period that he developed a lifelong interest in Eastern philosophy and music, mysticism, and Theosophy.[8]

In 1942, thirteen of his paintings were included in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States, curated by Dorothy Miller.[9] It was his first exhibition.[10] MoMA purchased Bloom's "The Bride" and "The Synagogue" from that exhibition. Also included were three different paintings titled The Christmas Tree and another version of The Synagogue.[11] Willem de Kooning later said that he and Jackson Pollock, who first saw Bloom's work at the exhibition, considered Bloom "the first Abstract Expressionist artist in America."[12]

In 1949, Bloom received a Guggenheim fellowship, and in 1950 he was one of only seven artists (including Arshile Gorky, John Marin, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning) to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale.[13] The same year, Bloom had a major retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[13]

He was a close friend of the composer Alan Hovhaness and the Greek mystic painter Hermon di Giovanno. The three of them often met together to discuss various mystical subjects and to listen to Indian classical music. Bloom encouraged di Giovanno in his art, providing him with a set of pastels with which he executed his earliest paintings. In 1984, Bloom was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1994.

Death and legacy[edit]

Bloom's last residence was in Nashua, New Hampshire. He died there on August 26, 2009, at the age of 96. He is survived by his wife Stella.[14]

Hyman Bloom: The Beauty of All Things, a film about the artist's life and work, was released in October 2009.


  1. ^ Bookbinder, Judith (2005). Boston Modern: Figurative Expressionism as Alternative Modernism. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press. pp. 58–60. ISBN 9781584654889. 
  2. ^ Temin, Christine (28 August 2009). "Hyman Bloom, 96; painted works of grisly Expressionism". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ Bookbinder (2005), p. 62.
  4. ^ Bookbinder (2005), p. 74.
  5. ^ Alimi, Bob. "Hyman Bloom: Key People". HymanBloomInfo.org. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  6. ^ University of New Hampshire Art Gallery (2000). "Against The Grain: The Second Generation of Boston Expressionism". Traditional Fine Arts Organization. 
  7. ^ Bookbinder (2005), p. 128.
  8. ^ Alimi, Bob. "Hyman Bloom: Introduction". HymanBloomInfo.org. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Morrison, Richard C. "Oral history interview with Richard C. Morrison, 1965 June 8". Archives of American Art. 
  10. ^ Bookbinder (2005), p. 137.
  11. ^ Miller, Dorothy C. (1942). Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.  The 13 paintings were: Skeleton (c. 1936), The Fish (c. 1936), Circus Rider (c. 1937), The Baby (c.1938), The Stove (1938), The Christmas Tree (c. 1939), The Christmas Tree (1939), The Christmas Tree (1939), The Chandelier (c. 1940), The Synagogue (c. 1940), The Synagogue (c. 1940), Jew with the Torah (c. 1940), The Bride (1941).
  12. ^ Chaet, Bernard (1980). "The Boston Expressionist School: A Painter's Recollections of the Forties". Archives of American Art Journal (The Smithsonian Institution) 20 (1): 28. Bloom was the link between Boston Expressionism and the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Thomas Hess, in Abstract Painting, 1951, reproduces Bloom's Archaeological Treasure in color and is clearly laudatory. This praise may have been due to the influence of Hess's favorite painter, Willem de Kooning, who made it very clear to me in a conversation in 1954 that he and Jackson Pollock considered Bloom, whom they had discovered in Americans 1942, 'the first Abstract Expressionist artist in America.' 
  13. ^ a b McBee, Richard. "Hyman Bloom's Journey". RichardMcBee.com. 
  14. ^ Cotter, Holland. "Hyman Bloom, a Painter of the Mystical, Is Dead at 96", The New York Times, August 31, 2009. Accessed August 31, 2009.

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