About This Artwork

Peter Blume
American, born Russia (now Belarus), 1906–1992

The Rock, 1944/48

Oil on canvas
146.4 x 188.9 cm (57 5/8 x 74 3/8 in.)
Signed Lower left: Peter Blume, 1948

Gift of Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., 1956.338

When it was exhibited at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh in 1950, The Rock was voted the show’s most popular painting. Peter Blume’s dramatic image of a shattered but enduring rock must have struck a responsive chord with many post–World War II viewers. Displaying a startling juxtaposition of images, the work evokes Surrealist dreamscapes made even more vivid by meticulous brushwork inspired by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century northern European painting. Although Blume’s imagery resists easy interpretation, the work suggests a parable of destruction and reconstruction. The jagged rock looms at the center of the composition, still upright despite the removal of its base by workers below. On the right, smoke billows around the charred timbers of a house, an image that might allude to the bombing of London during World War II. On the left, a new building, encased in scaffolding, rises as laborers in the foreground cart slabs of stone toward it. The new structure recalls Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater (1935–37) in southwestern Pennsylvania, the residence for which Liliane and Edgar Kaufmann commissioned the painting. Their son Edgar Kaufmann Jr. donated The Rock to the Art Institute in 1956.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Durlacher Brothers Gallery, Peter Blume, January 3-29, 1949, cat. 11.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Paintings, Oct. 19-Dec. 21, 1950, cat. 41.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, 75th Anniversary Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by 75 Artists Associated with the Art Students Leagure of New York, 1951, cat. 75, ill.

Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Gallery of Art, Paintings and Drawings: Peter Blume in Retrospective, 1926 to 1964, cat. 19; traveled to Hartford, Conn., Wadsworth Atheneum, July 9-Aug. 16, 1964.

Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Peter Blume exhibition, Jan. 10-Feb. 29, 1976.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis, November 14, 2014-April 5, 2015; traveled to Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 3-September 20, 2015 (Philadelphia only) cat. 90.

Publication History

Howard Devree, "Diverse Americans: The Development of Glackens' Painting--Blume's New Work--Thon and Others," New York Times, Jan. 9, 1949, p. X8 (ill.).

“Peter Blume Presents His Magnum Opus,” Art Digest 23 (Jan. 15, 1949), p. 13 (ill.).

“Blume: Obsessed Realist,” Art News 47 (Jan. 1949), pp. 22-23 (ill.).

Magazine of Art 42 (Mar. 1949), p. 85 (ill.).

"Surrealism Wins in the People's Vote," Art Digest 25, 7 ( Jan. 1, 1951), p. 8, ill.

"The Peoples Choice," Carnegie Magazine, 25, (Jan. 1951) pp. 13-15, ill. cover.

The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition of Painting & Sculpture by 75 Artists Associated with the Art Students League of New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1951), p. 75.

Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: a Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 26.

James A. Schinneller, Art/Search & Self-Discovery, 3rd ed., (Davis Publications, 1975), p. 36.

The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 89 (ill.).

Franklin Toker, Fallingwater Rising (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), p.317 (ill.).

“Seeing Beyond the Must-Sees,” Chicago Tribune, Section 7, Apr.18, 2003, p. 7.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 155.

Ownership History

Commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann, from 1948 to 1955; by descent to Edgar Kaufmann Jr., from 1955 to 1956; The Art Institute of Chicago, 1956.

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