Before Robert Cozzolino was an art history major in college, he became fascinated with a painting that would forever impact his life: The Rock, by Peter Blume (1906- 1992), at the Art Institute of Chicago. The colorful painting (1944-48) spanning 29 square feet was inspired by the continual process of man\’s rebuilding out of a devastated world, according to Blume, reported by LIFE in 1949. Like much of Blume’s work, the painting spurs a myriad of stories, touching on contrasting themes of destruction and rebirth while highlighting urban takeover of natural land. As Cozzolino spent more time looking at The Rock and was drawn in to modern art galleries, he switched his major’s emphasis from Northern Renaissance art to American art. Now, as senior curator and curator of modern art at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, he’s put together his dream project: the first Blume retrospective since 1976, Nature and Metamorphosis.
The exhibit runs concurrent with New York City’s ACA Galleries’ Blume exhibit, showing off nearly 70 lesser-known works of the artist, including preparatory drawings, oil sketches and sculptures. There are the beginnings of a new house in the upper-left corner of The Rock that represent Fallingwater, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 that served as the residence for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, who commissioned the painting. At ACA Galleries, visitors may see Blume’s pencil on paper, Facade of Falling Water, a much more representative sketch of the building that is a sharp contrast to the innards of the not-yet-built structure in The Rock. Visitors to ACA Galleries, which represents Blume’s estate, will see Blume’s evolution as a modernism and narrative painter, gaining insight into how Blume prepared for his masterpieces. I\’s interesting to see the wheels of his mind turning and see how his works !nally materialize, says Mikaela Sardo Lamarche, who has served as ACA Galleries’ curator for the past 10 years, and who says reaction