Hyman Bloom was born in Latvia in 1913. In 1920 Hyman left for the US with his parents and brother to join his 2 older brothers who had emmigrated and settled in Boston during the year of Hyman’s birth. Bloom’s artistic gifts were recognized early and while in 8th grade he received a scholarship to attend classes for gifted students at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
He was “discovered” at the age of 28 by Dorothy Miller, and his very first show was a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Time Magazine’s Arts Review column from February 02, 1942 entitled “Mass Debut” would be the first review — but hardly the last — to characterize Bloom as a reclusive artist with esoteric interests:
“The most striking discoveries in the Museum of Modern Art’s show were Boston’s 28-year-old Hyman Bloom and Seattle’s 31-year-old Morris Graves. Until the Museum’s Painting Curator Dorothy Miller dug him out of a hermit-like existence in a Boston slum, Latvian-born Hyman Bloom had been painting in solitary squalor in a little second-story studio. A lover of Oriental musk who beguiles his spare moments playing on the Arabian lute, Hyman Bloom loves to paint, with exuberant Oriental color, the gloomy, bearded rabbis and synagogue scenes that he remembers from his childhood. Uninfluenced by other U.S. artists, indifferent to both money and publicity, shy, mop-headed Bloom has seldom sold a picture, never had an exhibition.”
Bloom’s paintings are mystical explorations of light and color. Throughout his life he worked in large part within a relatively small set of themes, each superficially different in nature: Christmas Trees, Rabbis with Torahs, Landscapes, Fish “seascapes”, Still Lifes (pottery/gourds) and cadavers/autopsy scenes. The latter subject matter was obviously challenging, eliciting occasional outrage and charges of obscenity when the exhibitions toured the country. Bloom was unconcerned about critical response – he felt that the subject matter, while harrowing, was in fact beautiful and the feeling of boundaries transgressed perhaps added to the intensity that he always sought in a painting. There is unsettled debate as to whether these images were rooted in his family’s exposure to Jewish pogroms in the “old country” and later, the Holocaust. What is certain is that Hyman Bloom lived a long productive life, never wavering from his artistic vision of exploring themes of physical and spiritual transformation, and in the process made substantial contributions to 20th century modernism.