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Impression of a Silktown, New Jersey

An architect who emigrated from Germany to work at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Oscar Bluemner had an affinity for architectural subjects. Radicalized by a trip to Europe in 1912, he developed an abstract style that favored simple form, strong color, and bold outline. Believing in the emotive and symbolic power of color, he used it to suggest the energy and harshness of the modern cityscape. This watercolor relates to the painting An Expression of a Silktown (New Jersey State Museum). Both works refer to Paterson, New Jersey, the nation’s first planned industrial city and home to some of the country’s oldest textile mills, earning it the nickname “Silk City.” Although Paterson experienced a major strike in 1913, Bluemner included no people in this image, imagining instead a place that held a brighter future for its inhabitants.

Oscar Bluemner
American, born Germany, 1867–1938
Impression of a Silktown, New Jersey
1914
Watercolor on paper
Image/sheet: 14 15/16 x 19 15/16 in. (37.9 x 50.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 73.8