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Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938, German-American); draftsman and painter. His life was not easy. Artists’ lives rarely are. But at his side through those struggles was his long-haired, orange cat named Florianus.
Bluemner’s paintings were hailed by the critics and admired by his peers. He should have been successful but sold very little during his lifetime. Was it his Prussian heritage? He could not help the accent, but became a US citizen before the turn of the 20th century.
Following the lead of famed art promoter Alfred Stieglitz, Bluemner received openings in many of the top showcases for Modern Art in New York City, as well as Boston, Chicago and St. Louis, including the famous Armory Show of 1913 and the very first Whitney Biennial in 1932. But after Georgia O’Keeffe purchased one of his paintings, it seems like no one else did. So, was it bad painting or just bad luck?
Bluemner was born in Prezlau, Germany. The son of an itinerant builder, he obtained a degree in architecture before emigrating to the US, due to the repressive policies of the Kaiser. Even then, he was receiving awards for his painting, which he found time to do on his own.
He was an architect first and should have been successful at that as well.... In New York, his designs were chosen for the new Bronx courthouse, but his boss took the credit, and Bluemner had to sue in order to get paid. In the process, he helped take down Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall gang. But his career as an architect was over....
We do not know when the cat Florianus came to live with Oscar, but he died in 1931. A couple of years later, Oscar took the name “Florianus” as his own middle name and thereafter, signed his paintings in this way.
Life never got easier for him. After a series of accidents and illnesses, Oscar Bluemner took his own life in 1938.