Peter Blume (American, born Russia, 19061992)
Oil on canvas; 56 x 66 in. (142.2 x 167 cm)
George A. Hearn Fund, 1942 (42.155)
Although the subjects of Blume's pictures were frequently mystifying and tended toward Surrealism, his technique possessed a sharp clarity that associated him with the Precisionist school of painting. South of Scranton gathers various scenes that the artist encountered during an extended road trip in spring 1930. Setting out from his residence in Pawling, New York, Blume drove through the coalfields of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then headed south toward the steel mills of Bethlehem. The industrial machinery, coal piles, and smoking locomotives at the left side of the painting represent these locales. Blume then traveled further south to Charleston, South Carolina, where he witnessed several sailors performing acrobatic exercises aboard the deck of a German cruiser ship in the harbor. The Citadel military academy, located in Charleston, may have inspired the crenellated yellow towers in the foreground. In an account of the painting's origins, the artist stated, "As I tried to weld my impressions into the picture, they lost all their logical connections. I moved Scranton into Charleston, and Bethlehem into Scranton, as people do in a dream. The German sailors appeared to lose the purpose of exercising and became, in a sense, like birds soaring through space" (Carnegie Magazine, October 1934).