Hyman Bloom has been acknowledged as the first Abstract Expressionist artist by Jackson
Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Indeed, Hyman Bloom was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Americans 1942” exhibition and in 1950 he exhibited alongside Pollock and de Kooning in the 1950 Venice Biennale. But Bloom’s expressionism could not ultimately be contained by the intellectualism of purely abstract art. Where Abstract Expressionism explored the mind, Hyman Bloom’s expressionism went far deeper into what would become a lifelong exploration of the spirit.
Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in the village of Brunaviški in Latvia, Hyman Bloom was already steeped in the Jewish mystical tradition by the time his family immigrated to Boston in 1920. As a young man, he even entertained the possibility of becoming a rabbi. Equal to his religious turn of mind, though, was his obvious talent as an artist. At the age of 14, Hyman Bloom won a scholarship to study drawing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. He also enrolled in a parallel art program at the West End Settlement House taught by the influential painter and teacher Harold K. Zimmerman. It was here, in the making of art, that Hyman Bloom’s innate spirituality began its expansion out from formal religious confines into the infinite precincts of the mystical and metaphysical.
Hyman Bloom’s early kinship with the American avant garde brought him recognition not only from MoMA and his fellow Abstract Expressionists, but from important galleries and museums, culminating in 1954 in a full retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
But Bloom was already growing apart from pure abstraction and the American avant garde’s fascination with psychology and the subconscious. His studies in the spiritual and mystical practices of the world’s cultures led him to appreciate the importance of the figure—human, animal and the forms of nature—as both anchor and guide in the metaphysical realm. Hyman Bloom’s work, therefore, maintains careful observation of the figure and nature even as he abstracts them in time and space. His strong brushwork and aggressive use of color reveal states of life, death, feeling, action, flesh and soul, what he has called “the nature of being.”
Hyman Bloom and his wife, Stella, moved to Nashua, New Hampshire in 1983, where he maintained a studio. He remained in Nashua until his death in 2009 at the age of ninety-six. His work is represented in major collections and museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, and the Museum of the National Academy of Design, New York.
There is also a documentary film on the life and work of Hyman Bloom called Hyman Bloom: The Beauty of All Things.
Hyman Bloom, by Dorothy Abbott Thompson. New York: Chameleon Books, Inc., 1996.