Written by: Emily Sabens, Public Relations Intern

On this day, we celebrate artist Norman Bluhm, who passed away in 1999 and would have been 97 years old today. In honor of his birthday, here are five quick facts about the abstract expressionist painter.


Norman Bluhm. Chandelle, 1966. Oil on canvas. 90 x 72 inch. David Owsley Museum of Art. Gift from the family of Norman Bluhm, 2005.010.000

1. Bluhm was incredibly smart and originally wanted to be an architect

Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Bluhm excelled in school. At the early age of 16, he attended the Armour (now called Illinois) Institute of Technology, where he spent time with famous architects such as Mies van de Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright.

2. He fought in World War II

Bluhm was drafted into the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He later returned home, though, severely injured and emotionally devastated––both from the scenes he saw overseas, and from losing his brother, who died while also serving in the Air Force.

3. Bluhm traveled to Italy to study art

After recovering from the trauma of the war, Bluhm gave up his dream of being an architect to pursue art because he wanted a “life that was his own” rather than a career he felt was chosen for him. He decided to move to Florence, Italy, where he studied fine art at the Academia de Belle Arte.

4. He later moved to Paris to further his studies

Bluhm went to Paris, France after completing his studies in Italy; there, he attended the École des Beaux-Arts, one of the world’s most famous art schools. While in Paris, Bluhm met other artists such as Paul Éluard, Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso.

5. His works are featured in numerous museums across the country

Bluhm’s works currently reside in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Visit the David Owsley Museum of Art today to see both “Chandelle,” painted by Bluhm in 1966, and “Oz,” which spans the back wall in Sculpture Court.