Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938)
Last Evening of the Year
Oil on composition board
Overall: 14 × 10 in. (35.6 × 25.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Juliana Force
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
Convinced that art’s purpose was to uncover the truths beneath visible appearances, Oscar Bluemner rejected the strict imitation of external reality in favor of an expressionist style that could convey consciousness and mood. His aim, as he described it, was to transform “objective reality to a subjective realization of personal vision.” The evocative title of this painting adds to the meditative, symbolic quality Bluemner invested in his landscapes. In Last Evening of the Year, objects are reduced to simplified geometries with an economy of means that verges on abstraction. Still, landscape elements persist, including snow-covered vegetation and a small dwelling. Interested in Sigmund Freud’s ideas of psychoanalysis and the unconscious, which he began to study around this time, Bluemner referred to gnarled trees—such as those depicted here—as surrogates for the human body, analogously shaped by hardship. This painting was shown at the Whitney Studio Galleries in 1929, where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney purchased it for her own collection.