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Frame By Frame: Hyman Bloom’s “Hull”

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From an eviscerated body, spiritualism emerges


WORCESTER ­­— This dark, disturbing painting is not, on reflection, dark — it’s very brightly colored — and it’s only disturbing if you want it to be. It’s by Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), one of the most compelling artists to have emerged from Boston in the 20th century, and it hangs in the Worcester Art Museum.

Part of one shudders to think of a thought like this occurring to a Jewish man, in a morgue, in 1939, on the very cusp of the Holocaust. And indeed, Bloom was surely shaken by what happened over the next six years. Nor, in his art, did he shy from it. But he also pursued his own spiritualist course. He seemed to perceive that it is only at the level of spirituality that death and life can begin to cohere in the human mind, and that what makes them cohere appears to us as beauty.

Sebastian Smee can be reached at ssmee@globe.com.