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Guide to the Papers of Edwin Howland Blashfield
1870-1956 (bulk 1889-1936)
  MS 61

New-York Historical Society
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New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Gregory Tavormina

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 23, 2013
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936) was an American artist, art historian, travel writer, and leading authority in the academic art community. A strong advocate for public art, Blashfield achieved international success during his lifetime for his decorative mural paintings located in buildings across the country.

Born in New York City to William H. Blashfield and Eliza Dodd, Blashfield initially studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1867, he traveled to Paris where he studied art under Leon Bonnat. He spent the next thirteen years abroad, participating in salon exhibitions from 1874 to 1879, 1881, 1891, and 1892.

Blashfield returned to New York in 1881, where he continued to paint. A couple of his notable genre paintings were "The Christmas Bells," residing at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and "Angel with the Flaming Sword," located at the Church of the Ascension on 5th Avenue. During the 1890s, Blashfield began his prolific career in mural painting. One of his first paintings was a dome in the Manufacturer's and Liberal Arts building at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Blashfield was commissioned to paint the interiors of a number of state capitols, including Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. He also painted the great central dome of the Library of Congress, "Music and the Dance" in the old Waldorf-Astoria, and the personal residences of W.K. Vanderbilt and G. W. C. Drexel.

In addition to being an accomplished artist, Blashfield also wrote extensively about his travels to Europe and the Middle East. He also penned a few books on art, including Italian Cities and  Mural Painting in America. During World War One, Blashfield supported the war effort by painting patriotic murals for the government. He also participated in foreign relations, such as by meeting with foreign dignitaries.

Blashfield was very active within the art community throughout his life. He served as President of the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1915-16), and the Society of American Artists (1895-6). He was also a member of the Society of Mural Painters, the Architectual League, the Federation of Fine Arts of New York, and the National Commission of Fine Arts. He was well-acquainted with his contemporaries, including such artists as Cass Gilbert, Daniel Chester French, John LaFarge, Gari Melchers, John Singer Sargent, and Maxfield Parrish.

Blashfield married Evangeline Wilbour in 1881. She died in 1918 and Blashfield remarried Grace Hall in 1928. Edwin Howland Blashfield died at his summer home at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1936.