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Arbit Blatas Papers

A description of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Blatas, Arbit.
Title: Arbit Blatas Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1908-1999
Quantity: 5 boxes.
Abstract: Letters, manuscripts, clippings, articles, and programs covering the career of the Russian-born artist.
Language: Bulk of material is in English but there are also some items in French, Lithuanian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Portuguese
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

Arbit Blatas (1908-1999) was a Russian-American patiner and sculptor, known for his impressionist street scenes as well as for his series of paintings and sculptures of many of the modern masters with whom he worked and studied.

Born a Russian Jew in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1908. He began painting very early, and had his first exhibition at the age of 14. His father refused to let him go to Paris to study unless he could prove he was talented, so at 17 the two of them went to Riga to see a painter there and have him assess young Blatas' skills. Fortunately, he deemed the boy very talented and so Blatas' father agreed to let him go to Paris.

He arrived in Paris at the peak of what would later be called the École de Paris (School of Paris), whose luminaries included Picasso, Cocteau, Matisse, Leger, Braques and others. Blatas quickly became acquainted with them and at 21 was the youngest acknowledged member. In addition to becoming recognized for his impressionist style street scenes and portraits, he also painted and/or sculpted all of these giants of the Paris art world over a period of some thirty years.

In 1941, with the upsurge in Nazism and World War II looming , Blatas left Paris for New York City. He set up shop in a studio on West 56th Street and had a number of solo exhibitions at the French Art Gallery. His pleasure in his work was tempered by personal sadness, as his mother died in a concentration camp. His father survived and the two were later reunited in Paris after the war. Sometime in the early 1940s he married and had a daughter, Dorothée, who figures in a number of his paintings of the time. He eventually became an American citizen.

Throughout the forties, fifties and sixties Blatas divided his time between New York and Paris, producing paintings, sculptures and lithographs. In 1960 a series of works based on “The Three-Penny Opera” foreshadowed an interest in opera that was to flourish later when he met and married mezzo-soprano Regina Resnik. Both intensely creative, intelligent, and passionate about stretching their artistic abilities, their partnership sparked a mutual explosion of creativity. "I think of myself as a 19th century person," Resnik said, "and Blatas as a painter of another epoch…we complement each other and it's volcanic – Vesuvius and Etna, with a lot of flowing lava!" [Opera News, 12/8/84].

Resnik, world-famous for her Carmen and other performances, had begun to reduce her performance schedule and was exploring new outlets for her creativity while Blatas, who believed he was "always learning," had no hesitation in trying something new. The first fruit of their collaboration was a critically acclaimed production of Carmen in Hamburg in 1970, directed by Resnik, for which Blatas designed the scenery and costumes, his first foray into theatrical design. (Both also appeared in the documentary about Bizet and Carmen which was shot during the production.) In the next eight years they collaborated on nine more operas including Elektra (Venice, 1971), Salome (Lisbon, 1975), Falstaff (Warsaw, 1975) and Pique Dame (Vancouver 1976 and Sydney 1979).

Blatas and Resnik spent much of their time in Venice and some of his loveliest paintings are of that city. In 1979, Blatas produced a seven-panel bronze bas-relief on the theme of the Holocaust which was installed in the Jewish Ghetto there. In 1981 a second casting was dedicated at Shrine of the Unknown Jewish Martyrs in Paris and in 1982 a third in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York. This in turn inspired his wife to produce and finance a documentary on Venetian Jews entitled "Geto: The Historic Ghetto of Venice" which was shown on PBS.

In 1982, a major exhibition of all the Blatas sculptures and portraits of the Paris School was staged in Venice, presided over jointly by the Mayors of Paris and Venice (Jacques Chirac and Mario Rigo, respectively). Museums in New York, Paris, London and elsewhere continued to acquire and stage exhibits of Blatas' work, even as he continued to try his hand at new things including a treatment for a murder mystery film "Adventure in Spain," three childrens' books, and an outline for a 13-part series called "Around the World with Peter Ustinov," intended as in-flight entertainment for airline passengers. In 1997 his paintings of Venice were collected in "An Artist's Venice" with the introduction written by Regina Resnik.

Arbit Blatas was honoured with many awards during his lifetime including a Certificate of Appreciation from New York City Mayor Ed Koch, the gold medal "Venezia Riconoscente" from the city of Venice and the Medaille de Vermeil of the City of Paris, and he was named a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur by the French Government for his contribution to French art.

Arbit Blatas died in 1999.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings

Persons

Blatas, Arbit.
Resnik, Regina, 1922-2013.

Subjects

Artistic collaboration.
Artists, American.
Expressionism (art)
Figurative expressionism.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) and art.
Jews, American.
Jews, Russian.
Opera -- Stage-setting and scenery.
Painters -- France.
Painters -- United States.
Portrait painters.
Sculptors, American.
École de Paris.

Genres and Forms

Articles.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Correspondence.
Exhibition catalogs.
Manuscripts (document genre)
Photographs.
Reviews (document genre)
Theater programs.

Occupations

Painters.
Sculptors.
Set designers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Arbit Blatas Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Regina Resnik.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MR
Date: 31 Oct 2005
Revision history: 31 Oct 2005 - EAD file created (MRR)

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Inventory

The following is a simple BOX LIST. The collection has not yet been processed.

Box 1
"The Dream and the Destiny" (film about Carmen) - Script, brochure
Carmen (Hamburg, Germany) - Photos (1971), stage plans, programs
Falstaff (Warsaw, Poland) - Production photos, stage plans, program
Elektra (Venice, Strasbourg) - Photos of stage designs, stage plans (La Fenice), publicity flyers (La Fenice), costume research (Mycenae, Crete), programs (Venice and Strasbourg)
Salome (Lisbon, Portugal) - Photos (Lisbon, 1975), costume plans and prop designs
Salome and Elektra - Programs from Lisbon, Portugal productions (also season announcement for Elektra)
Pique Dame (Vancouver, Canada) - Black and white photos of sets, Vancouver stage plans, costume breakdown, Vancouver program, announcement of Arbit Blatas art show in conjunction with the opera production
Pique Dame (Sydney, Australia) - Stage plans (1978-1979), program
Stage plans for various opera houses
Production PR and publicity
Miscellaneous art catalogs
Box 2
Scrapbook - Small, dark blue, contains news clippings and info on art shows
Book w/ photo of Arbit Blatas painting
Magazines with articles on Arbit Blatas
Press material
Box 3
Catalogues - Hirsh-Adler, others
American invitations
Brochures
Announcements
Art books
Box 4
Photographs of Arbit Blatas
Legion d'Honneur documentation, photos, press (4 folders)
Copy of citation from NYC Mayor Koch honoring Arbit Blatas
"Who's Who" request
Scenarios - Written by Blatas, some alone and some with others
Manuscripts
Gallerie Rene Drouet
Letters and miscellaneous documents from various museums
Venice Exhibition 1982 - Press, related documents, other printed material
Photo - Arbit Blatas with artist Utrillo - seems to be part of art catalogue
Pieces from Arbit Blatas catalogues (Palm Springs and Venice)
Comments by visitors to Blatas exhibit
Letters concerning Blatas' art
Gulbenkian folder
Holocaust Monument - Correspondence for Venice Ghetto Holocaust Monument, material related to the monument including Yad Veshem correspondence
Contract for Holocaust miniseries (NBC-TV - Titus Productions)
Newspaper articles about President Ronald Reagan visiting Venice "Ghetto" film
Biographies and prefaces to art publications and related material
Scrapbook - pre-war press
Lithuanian press
Paris press (1930s)
New York press (1940s)
Miscellaneous clippings and publicity
Miscellaneous publicity
Reviews (1970s, 1980s)
Early press
Lithuania (1988) - Papers, letters, press
Press and interviews
More press
More printed material
Box 5
Catalogues
Miscellaneous catalogues (small box)
Additional items
In addition to the archival material packed in the five boxes, there are two more items in separate packaging.
Scrapbook
A.B. Press

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