Professor emeritus of art Zevi Blum (B.Arch. '57), an artist whose satirical etchings are internationally known and who taught drawing in AAP from 1974 to 2002, died February 25 of pancreatic cancer in San Francisco. He was 77.
Born in Paris to American parents in 1933 as Moses Zevi Blum, Blum entered Cornell as a fine arts major in 1951, the only male student in a class of 15. After earning his architecture degree at Cornell, he worked as an architect and fine artist through the 1960s, devoting himself full time to art in 1966 with his first solo gallery shows in New York and California. He joined Cornell as a visiting critic in the Department of Art in 1971; he joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1974, becoming associate professor in 1977.
He worked in several media, primarily in pen and ink, watercolor, and etching. He began focusing more on etching in the early 1970s and developed a technique in the 1980s that incorporated watercolor with etching. Working with a master printer, he began creating museum-quality giclée prints of his watercolor etchings in 2009. Because of the delicate nature of the etching medium, Blum often drew his finely detailed and fanciful images in one pass, with little or no reworking.
Blum was known for the magical realism in his work and was a skilled satirist, depicting topical and political subjects, and medieval characters in many works. He created illustrations for such publications as Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, and Readers' Digest. He also illustrated books, including Samuel Tenenbaum's The Wise Men of Chelm (1965), an Erotic Art Book Society edition of John Cleland's Fanny Hill (1978), and Mark Binder's The Brothers Schlemiel (2008), among others.
His artwork has been exhibited in the United States, Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland, among other countries; and his work is in several private and public collections, including the Vatican, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
"My work remarks on the tradition of Swift and Hogarth," Blum once said. "My admiration is in the tradition of Oscar Wilde. My filter is architecture."
After retiring in 2003, he moved to California with his wife, Barbara. The Ink Shop Printmaking Center in Ithaca hosted a retrospective exhibition of Blum's work in 2009, and Blum visited for a gallery talk and reception.
Survivors include Blum's wife, Barbara, sons William '86 and Jonathan '89, J.D. '93, daughter Alexandra '91, and their families.
Funeral services will be held March 1, at Temple Israel in Stockton, California, a memorial service to be held in San Francisco will be announced. A retrospective exhibition in Ithaca will take place on campus, June 9-19, 2011. Additionally, a memorial service will be held in Ithaca on Saturday, June 18 at 10:30 a.m. in Sage Chapel.
By Dan Aloi