Edwin Howland Blashfield papers
Language of Materials
The Edwin Howland Blashfield Papers describe the artistic career of New Yorker Edwin Howland Blashfield. They consist of correspondence, drawings, writings, and ephemera.
Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936) was an American artist, art historian, travel writer, and leading authority in the academic art community. A strong advocate for public art, Blashfield achieved international success during his lifetime for his decorative mural paintings located in buildings across the country.
Born in New York City to William H. Blashfield and Eliza Dodd, Blashfield initially studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1867, he traveled to Paris where he studied art under Leon Bonnat. He spent the next thirteen years abroad, participating in salon exhibitions from 1874 to 1879, 1881, 1891, and 1892.
Blashfield returned to New York in 1881, where he continued to paint. A couple of his notable genre paintings were "The Christmas Bells," residing at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and "Angel with the Flaming Sword," located at the Church of the Ascension on 5th Avenue. During the 1890s, Blashfield began his prolific career in mural painting. One of his first paintings was a dome in the Manufacturer's and Liberal Arts building at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Blashfield was commissioned to paint the interiors of a number of state capitols, including Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. He also painted the great central dome of the Library of Congress, "Music and the Dance" in the old Waldorf-Astoria, and the personal residences of W.K. Vanderbilt and G. W. C. Drexel.
In addition to being an accomplished artist, Blashfield also wrote extensively about his travels to Europe and the Middle East. He also penned a few books on art, including Italian Cities and Mural Painting in America. During World War One, Blashfield supported the war effort by painting patriotic murals for the government. He also participated in foreign relations, such as by meeting with foreign dignitaries.
Blashfield was very active within the art community throughout his life. He served as President of the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1915-16), and the Society of American Artists (1895-6). He was also a member of the Society of Mural Painters, the Architectual League, the Federation of Fine Arts of New York, and the National Commission of Fine Arts. He was well-acquainted with his contemporaries, including such artists as Cass Gilbert, Daniel Chester French, John LaFarge, Gari Melchers, John Singer Sargent, and Maxfield Parrish.
Blashfield married Evangeline Wilbour in 1881. She died in 1918 and Blashfield remarried Grace Hall in 1928. Edwin Howland Blashfield died at his summer home at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1936.
This collection is organized in seven series:
Series I. Correspondence, 1870-1956
Series II. Writings, [1870-1936], undated
Series III. Art Organizations,[1889-1956]
Series IV. Clippings and Memorabilia, [1917-1956], undated
Series V. Visual Materials, [1890-1923]
Series VI. Library Items, , undated
Series VII. Legal, 1899-1926
Scope and Contents
Edwin Howland Blashfield accumulated his personal papers over a period of more than 60 years. They range from correspondence and travel writings to essays on art and sketches. As a whole, they tell the story of a turn of the century New York muralist and his artistic motivations.
One strength of the papers is the series entitled Writings on Art. In these notes and essays, Blashfield discusses his personal thoughts on art in general. He also writes about the life and works of Italian Renaissance painters. By elaborating on where he thought art was going, and on what he found appealing and distasteful in others' art, Blashfield provides insight into his motivations as an artist.
Notable items include his correspondence and sketches. The correspondence is a large and important part of the collection, consisting of over 400 letters from prominent artists and patrons such as Cass Gilbert and state officials. Their contents often discuss paintings by Blashfield, or his input on the work of his peers. Sometimes they are letters expressing gratitude for a meeting or a copy of a newspaper article. The WWI correspondence includes letters written by the War Commissions of Allied Powers and branches of the U.S. Armed Services who were recipients of Blashfield's work. In addition to correspondence, there are 9 small sketches on scrap paper. Depicting people and architecture, Blashfield drew some of them during his travels to Europe. There are few visual materials within the collection. However, they do provide a taste of the academic art style he championed.
The collection is physically divided between manuscripts and bound volumes. The boxes can be located with the call phrase Blashfield Papers, the volumes with the call phrase BV Blashfield.
Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit www.nyhistory.org/library/visit.
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This collection should be cited as Edwin Howland Blashfield Papers, The New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition