LAWRENCE — After 33 years as a long-term loan to the Spencer Museum of Art, Albert Bloch’s large-scale painting “Frieze for a Music Room” has joined the museum’s permanent collection. The painting, acquired as a partial gift from the Albert Bloch Foundation, features a sweeping composition filled with some of Bloch’s signature subjects: clowns and commedia dell’arte characters.
David Cateforis, University of Kansas professor and chair of the Kress Foundation Department of Art History, said the work is Bloch’s most ambitious in terms of scale, and its masterful depiction of motion, nature, figures and music represents the artist at the height of his career.
“‘Frieze for a Music Room’ is one of Bloch’s most important paintings of the 1910s,” Cateforis said. “Its addition to the collection substantially strengthens the museum’s holdings of early 20th-century European and American modernist art.”
Bloch, the only American member of the Blue Rider group, which also included Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky, painted “Frieze for a Music Room” in 1915 in the middle of his 12-year stay in Germany. After returning to the United States, Bloch eventually assumed the departmental head position in KU's School of Fine Arts.
“The painting is a seminal work from his early German period, and in many ways it summarizes the undercurrents that he brought to Lawrence to inspire his students in those early years of teaching art classes at KU,” said Scott Heffley, president of the Albert Bloch Foundation and senior conservator of paintings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.
Susan Earle, Spencer curator of European and American art, said the painting was likely created as a mural or over-door decoration for a domestic music room. The painting was originally loaned to the Spencer by Anna Bloch, Albert Bloch’s widow. In 2003, the ownership of the painting transferred from Anna to the Albert Bloch Foundation. It has been on nearly continuous display in the museum’s galleries since it was loaned to the Spencer in 1983.
Earle said the painting is very much a part of the museum’s identity.
“This painting complements other works by Bloch in our collection and stands as an outstanding tribute to Bloch’s memory and exceptional legacy at the University of Kansas,” Earle said.
“Frieze for a Music Room” will be on view in the 20/21 Gallery when the museum reopens to the public October 15 after completing a major renovation.