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Albert Bloch


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Painter. Also a writer. A modernist at an early date, he ranks as the only American to exhibit with the expressionist Blue Rider group in Germany. His work also appeared in its so-called almanac, also titled Der Blaue Reiter (1912). A native of St. Louis where he began his study of art, Bloch worked as an illustrator in his hometown and in New York before leaving for Europe in 1908. He lived abroad until 1921, except for several visits home. In Munich, Bloch met Kandinsky, whose work he had already come to admire. Late in 1911, Kandinsky and Franz Marc invited Bloch to join them and eleven others in the Blue Rider's first exhibition, which opened in Munich and then traveled to Berlin and other German cities. Bloch also exhibited in the group's second, and last, larger exhibition the following year in Munich. After he returned to the United States, he taught for a year in Chicago before accepting an offer to head the art department at the University of Kansas. Besides teaching both painting and art history, Bloch remained active as a writer of essays and poetry and a translator of German literature and philosophy. After retirement in 1947, he continued to reside in Lawrence. During his earlier years in Germany, Bloch painted both straightforwardly representational scenes and decorative figural works that evoke the languid mysteries of symbolism. Eventually, he followed Kandinsky's example toward more vigorous composition and expression, but unlike Kandinsky he retained figural elements in his art. Die Höhen (Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1914) envisages weightless figures in a landscape that echoes the rhythms and forms of Kandinsky's work from several years earlier. Later, isolated in Kansas, the idealistic artist nurtured an intense and introverted vision, often suffused with the Christian themes that had inspired him since his days in Germany. Some of Bloch's original and translated poetry appeared as Ventures in Verse (1947).

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