The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
John Vincent Bloom

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John Vincent Bloom (1906-2002) - student

A native of De Witt, Iowa, John Bloom would become known as a major fixture of the eastern Iowa art community. He completed two years of undergraduate studies at St. Ambrose University (Davenport); his formal art training occurred at the Tri-City Art League School, located in Davenport, and the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1927-1929, Bloom worked as a first-year drawing and composition instructor at the Art Institute; he joined the Stone City Art Colony in the summer of 1932 upon a special invitation from Wood. John shared Grant's colony quarters - a painted ice-wagon. Unable to pay the required tuition because of recent exhibition expenses, John's charges were covered through his work as the colony groundskeeper. One day, while cleaning the porch of the Green Mansion, he stopped to talk with Isabel Scherer, a young sculptress, and teased her about the mess she was making. The couple would marry ten years later and settle in Davenport.

After winning an art prize at the Iowa State Fair for an oil painting entitled "Burial" (1932), Bloom was hired by Grant Wood to assist in designing and painting murals for the Des Moines Public Library. John was also part of the student painter group working under Wood at the Iowa State University library; he was instrumental in painting two of the Parks Library murals: "Breaking the Prairie Sod" and "When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow." A 1936 Davenport mural that Bloom designed would later become part of the local art museum's permanent collection.

During the WPA era, Bloom received the commission for the De Witt Post Office and installed his mural, "Shucking Corn," in 1937, followed by the federal mural commission for the Tipton Post Office, named "Cattle," completed in 1940. In the Davenport area, he worked as an industrial designer for H. Wood Miller Company and actively pursued his interest in lithography. John was also employed by the Rock Island Arsenal as a commercial artist for the Army Corps of Engineers, painted houses, and did home renovations to support his family. In 1969, Bloom retired from commercial art and began to rediscover his original artist roots. He even re-enrolled for classes at Chicago's Art Institute.

Mississippi Fine Art, Ltd. of Davenport is credited with the re-discovery of Bloom in the 1980s. The artist's first solo exhibit occurred at the gallery in 1984; he then produced three new murals ("Four Seasons," "Oat Shocking," and "Cattle Loading") during 1987-88 by completing earlier ideas from the 1930s-1940s. The murals feature the same color scheme found in original, WPA murals.

Bloom was a member of the Lithograph Club of Davenport. Exhibitions of his work include: The Iowa Art Salon, various prizes (1932-36); Tri-City Artists exhibits (1929-1935); All Iowa Exhibition, Chicago (1937); Mississippi Fine Art, Ltd. (1984); Quad Cities Art Showcase (1986); the Muscatine Art Center, and others. Isabel Scherer, John's wife and fellow colony member, would become internationally known for her figurines and sculpture. The couple remained long-term residents of the Davenport area; John died there in May 2002.


Online Resources for John V. Bloom:

Iowa State University Library, Parks Library. "Grant Wood Mural: Other Arts Follow: Engineering Panel." Available: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/cfora/generic.cfm?cat=arts_murals_wood&navid=10705&parent=3000&disp=classic&pagemode=

Lorance, Nancy. "John Bloom, Illinois Artist." From "W.P.A. - New Deal Art during the Great Depression." Available: http://www.wpamurals.com/bloombio.htm

Wehmeier, Mary. "Mary Wehmeier's Blog du Jour: When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow: John Bloom." Available: http://radio.weblogs.com/0100243/2002/05/23.html


Published Works

Bloom, Isabel and John V. Bloom. The Story of Little Cat. [Davenport, IA]: Isabel Bloom Ltd., 1994.


'Shocking Oats' (1987). In the collection of Mary Ann Reiter, Ottumwa, Iowa. Image courtesy of Ms. Reiter and photographer Michael W. Lemberger.

'County Fair' (1984). In the collection of Mary Ann Reiter, Ottumwa, Iowa. Image courtesy of Ms. Reiter and photographer Michael W. Lemberger.

Isabel and John V. Bloom at Davenport Art Museum Exhibition Opening, ca. 1970.

Photo courtesy of Isabel Bloom, LLC and Hanson Watson Howe Advertising, Moline, Illinois.



When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
Busse Library,
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