Julius Bloch Papers
Scope and Contents
This collection includes various papers, publications, and items relating to Julius Bloch's life and work. It contains sketchings of people done by Julius Bloch on scraps of paper, as well as drawings done by children who were most likely Bloch's students while he was teaching art in Philadelphia. There is mainly correspondence to Bloch from all kinds of people, personal friends and acquaintances, museum directors and curators, art collectors, famous figures, and family members. Notably, there are letters from Eleanor Roosevelt about the purchase of Bloch's piece, The Young Worker, and her visit to meet with him in Philadelphia. There is also a letter from Langston Hughes regarding an exhibit Hughes was organizing in San Francisco advocating for the Scottsboro boys and using art to organize against the violence and atrocities committed against the boys. There is also a wealth of correspondence from Bloch to his three sisters while he was traveling in southern Europe between 1962 and 1964. Some of the financial papers include a list of the distribution of Bloch's estate as well as a letter from Bloch to Sturgis Ingersoll, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the time, about the execution of Bloch's will. The publications contain art magazines, exhibition catalogs, newspapers, and socially-focused magazines, notably The Crisis (1932 May) and New Masses (1935 October 8), that printed or commented on Bloch's works. The writings section has Bloch's research and artwork proposal for a Guggenheim fellowship, along with writing for a student and a piece by Oliver Grimley about Bloch's art.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Julius Bloch Papers are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.
Biographical / Historical
Julius Thiengen Bloch was born in Kehl, Germany in 1888 and immigrated with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1893. He trained to be an artist at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art and then at the Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts. Bloch was heavily influenced by realist painters from previous generations, such as famed Philadephian painter and PAFA art instructor Thomas Eakins. Realist painters depicted everyday scenes of life, such as the working class, scenes of cafes and city streets, revealing the lives of people who did not have upper class and bourgeois luxuries that were typically depicted in art in the past. Influenced by this movement yet coming into his artistic career in the early 20th century, Julius Bloch mainly created social realist work representing his subjects as persistent, willful, and strong in the face of oppression, violence, and hardships. He created various prints, lithographs, etchings, and paintings between 1912 and the 1950s. In the 1930s following his service in World War I, Bloch began creating works of mostly African American peoples, contrary to many of his white contemporaries, as well as depicting the working class and immigrants. He mainly created portraits of his subjects, but he also drew people in everyday situations and gestural positions. Through his art, Bloch turned public attention to the people not typically depicted in white, Anglo- and Euro-centric artwork. His art portrayed an array of peoples and emotions--the worn but resolute faces of miners in Coal Miners, the violence and horrors faced by the Black communities in America in works such as The Lynching in 1932, and a dignified and affecting portrait of Horace Pippin in 1943. His work was shown often at the Pyramid Club in Philadelphia, a prominent arts and cultural space started by a group of Black businessmen and lawyers, as well as various museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, Julius Bloch was one of the first artists to work under the funding of the Public Works of Art Project. The PWAP was the first U.S. federal funded art program and was created as part of the New Deal following the Great Depression. He gained a strong foothold in the arts nationally when in 1934 Eleanor Roosevelt chose Julius Bloch’s painting The Young Worker c. 1934 to be part of the White House collection. He also had strong relationships with various directors of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; he left a majority of his artwork to the museum following his death in 1966.
- “Julius Bloch: Portrait of the Artist.” Philadelphia Museum of Art. March 20, 1983-May 1, 1983. https://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/1983/635.html.
- “Julius Bloch (Biographical Details).” The British Museum. Accessed July 31, 2019. https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=132015.
1 linear feet (2 document boxes, 1 half-size legal document box, 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
The Julius Bloch papers contain materials related to Bloch's life and artwork. Julius Bloch was a German-American artist from Philadelphia who mainly created paintings, drawings, lithographs, and etchings. The collection includes clippings from newspapers about Bloch, correspondence, documents such as his estate papers, photographs of Bloch and others, and publications from the United States. Notably, there are letters inquiring about artwork from Eleanor Roosevelt and Langston Hughes to Bloch.
An accrual of Bloch materials, including a hand-drawn card, was made by Stephen Liu in memory of his husband, Ronald Williams, in 2022.
These materials were arranged and described by Sophie Basalone in 2019.
- Guide to the Julius Bloch Papers
- Sophie Basalone
- August 2019
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description