Boris Blai, born in Russia in 1894, took after his father who was a famous artist and architect. As Blai showed great artistic ability, he was sent to study under Auguste Rodin. In 1918, after serving in World War I in the French army, he came to the United States and quickly made a name for himself. Though he arrived in New York, he did not like it and he left for Philadelphia soon after. Due to his work with Rodin, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, asked Blai “to repair some Rodin sculpture.” Through his friendship with R. Tait McKenzie, who he met while in the army, and his emerging work, Blai started getting invited to Philadelphia social parties. He became friendly with wealthy families such as the Widnener’s, the Wassermans’, the Gimbels, etc. Through these contacts, he later taught private lessons out of his home. The Oak Lane Country Day School hired him as their director and faculty member in 1927. His work there inspired him to attempt to start a school where art was an integrated part of the curriculum, not just another class. One of his wealthy pupils, Stella Elkins Tyler, knew of his ambition, and donated her estate in Melrose Park, to be used for this purpose. In 1935, Blai founded and became the dean of the Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art, a campus of Temple University. Blai always believed that everyone should use their hands as a creative outlet. In 1943, Blai started giving art classes to soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. He believed before most how important the creative outlet is, and used this technique to help heal soldiers who were having various mental disorders from being at war. He had great success with these students and the classes grew by the soldiers’ request. In addition to being a faculty member and dean of Tyler and showing his own work internationally, in 1948, Blai founded the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences. This non-profit organization offers art classes and workshops for both children and adults in addition to exhibits of local and national artists. It is still open today with the same mission. Blai received many honors in his lifetime, according to him, the most important one was the honorary degree (Doctor of Fine Arts) Florida Southern College bestowed upon him in 1950 along with Frank L. Wright. It was at this time that he and Wright became friends. In 1966, Blai founded the first graduate art school in New Jersey, The Boris Blai College of Contemporary Arts. Unfortunately, the college, located in Forked River, was not in existence long. Blai continued to teach and sculpt and show his work until he passed away in 1985.
SCOPE AND CONTENT:
This collection, having been donated by Blai’s stepdaughters, Dr. Ruth Leventhal and Dr. Anita Simon, is a collection of Boris Blai’s personal papers and photographs throughout his life, but mostly from his adult life. It includes personal correspondence, a large amount of photographs of his sculptures along with a good deal of negatives, personal papers.
The collection was donated by Dr. Ruth Leventhal and Dr. Anita Simon in January 2009. The material is housed in 13 Hollinger document cases, 2 very small boxes, one medium box and one extra large box (8 linear feet). Processing and inventorying of the collection was done by Holly Beth Wilson. The Extra Large Box is a continuation of large materials from the Boris Blai Personal Papers collection. Large photographs of Blai and his sculptures are included.
IV. Stella Elkins Tyler
Series I: Papers
This series includes correspondence with letters to and from Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition to a speech Bertha gave at a memorial, there is a folder filled with memories of Boris from friends and family that Bertha asked for. All of the Oak Lane Country Day School materials are also housed in Box 1. Box 2 consists of materials relating to the building of Beth Shalom, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed. Also included are papers for the insurance company that handled the loss of Blai’s home in a 1962 hurricane in Harvey Cedars.
1. Papers: Correspondence: 1924-1965 (includes a letters to and from Frank Lloyd Wright)
2. Papers: Correspondence: 1966-1994
3. Papers: Correspondence: Bertha Blai
4. Papers: Correspondence: Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII
5. Papers: Boris and Bertha
6. Papers: Receipts
7. Papers: List of Property
8. Papers: Mailing List
9. Papers: Biography (includes an in-depth biography “Your Happiness Is In Your Hands: A biography of a Sculptor-teacher” by Erma Perry)
10. Papers: History (includes a speech by Bertha Blai after Boris’s death)
11. Papers: Boris Medical Records
12. Papers: Remembrances of Boris
13. Papers: Oak Lane Country Day School: 1928-1933
14. Papers: Oak Lane Country Day School: 1934-1947
15. Papers: Oak Lane Country Day School: 1978-1989
16. Papers: Oak Lane Country Day School: Methods and Curriculum Papers
1. Papers: Synagogue Beth Shalom: Correspondence
2. Papers: Synagogue Beth Shalom: Publicity
3. Papers: Synagogue Beth Shalom: Publications
4. Papers: Synagogue Beth Shalom: Sketches
5. Papers: Synagogue Beth Shalom: Notes/Quotes/Ideas
6. Papers: Awards/Honors (New Jersey State Legislative Award in Extra Large Box 18-7) (Art Alliance Award photographs in Box 9-8 )
7. Papers: Tyler Alumni
8. Papers: Barnegat Lighthouse
9. Papers: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
10. Papers: Loveladies and Lighthouse
11. Papers: Roman Bronze Works (company that Blai purchased his metal from)
12. Papers: “Evolution” (one of Blai’s Sculptures)
13. Papers: Harvey Cedars (papers relating to the 1962 hurricane that destroyed his home)
14. Papers: Widener College
15. Papers: Burlington College
16. Papers: Boris Blai Memorial Loan Fund
17. Papers: Miscellaneous
Series II: Publicity
This series includes publicity related to Beth Shalom, Barnegat Lighthouse, LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, Lakeland and Tyler.
1. Publicity: Beth Shalom
2. Publicity: Barnegat Lighthouse
3. Publicity: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
4. Publicity: Lakeland and Ludd Spivey
5. Publicity: Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII
6. Publicity: Tyler Articles
7. Publicity: Newspaper Clippings: 1933-1959
8. Publicity: Newspaper Clippings: 1960-1985
9. Publicity: Newspaper Clippings: Miscellaneous
Series III: Publications
This series includes several publications including several articles which were published by Blai.
1. Publications: Publications by Blai (includes “Happiness is in Your Hands”)
2. Publications: Art in Focus
3. Publications: The Artists Magazine
4. Publications: Boris Blai College of Contemporary Art
5. Publications: The Century Club Bulletin
6. Publications: Contemporary Life
7. Publications: Du Cret School of the Arts
8. Publications: Glassboro State College
9. Publications: The Journal of Health & Physical Education
10. Publications: Kenilworth Art Association
11. Publications: The Lehigh Navigator
12. Publications: Music Publishers Journal
13. Publications: New Jersey Music and Arts (includes an article written by Blai about wood carving)
14. Publications: Ocean County College
15. Publications: Philadelphia Art Alliance
16. Publications: Philadelphia Museum of Art
1. Publications: Philadelphia Page One
2. Publications: Your Schools in Cherry Hill
3. Publications: National Education Association
4. Publications: Exhibition Catalogs and other artists: 1917-1944
5. Publications: Exhibition Catalogs and other artists: 1959-1989
6. Publications: Blai’s Exhibits
7. Publications: Russian Pamphlets (pamphlets written in Russian)
8. Publications: Miscellaneous
1. Publications: Temple University
2. Publications: Temple University: Temple Alumni Review
3. Publications: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art
4. Publications: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Gargoyles 1947-1949
5. Publications: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Gargoyles 1950-1952
Series IV: Stella Elkins Tyler
This series consists of all of Blai’s materials relating to Stella Elkins Tyler, including some correspondence and photographs.
1. Stella Elkins Tyler: Letters (includes a Christmas card from 1936 that was taken out of a frame)
2. Stella Elkins Tyler: Exhibit Catalogs
3. Stella Elkins Tyler: Newspaper Clippings
4. Stella Elkins Tyler: Photographs (see Extra Large Box 18-8)
5. Stella Elkins Tyler: Photographs: Sculptures
Series V: Photographs
This series includes photographs of his sculptures and are organized by their title. These boxes also include photos of Blai himself with his friends and family.
1. Photographs: Sculptures: Seal Girl
2. Photographs: Sculptures: Organic Maiden
3. Photographs: Sculptures: Evening Garment
4. Photographs: Sculptures: Angel in Fountain
5. Photographs: Sculptures: Eve With Adam
6. Photographs: Sculptures: Evolution
7. Photographs: Sculptures: Margot Fontayne
8. Photographs: Sculptures: Wood Carvings
9. Photographs: Sculptures: Triangle Girl
10. Photographs: Sculptures: Mary Wigman
11. Photographs: Sculptures: Rhythm of the Sea
12. Photographs: Sculptures: Johnnie Ring
13. Photographs: Sculptures: Pavlova
14. Photographs: Sculptures: Girl With Bear
15. Photographs: Sculptures: Patty Green
16. Photographs: Sculptures: General Meade
17. Photographs: Sculptures: Dr. & Mrs. McCarthy – Busts and Photos
1. Photographs: Sculptures: Mandell – Photos and Clay Bust
2. Photographs: Sculptures: Various (See additional materials Extra Large Box 18-9)
3. Photographs: Photos for Modeling – Philip Klein and Soloff
4. Photographs: Senator Davis
5. Photographs: Final work of Glassboro Students - June 1975 (see the negatives in
6. Photographs: Frank Lloyd Wright
7. Photographs: Lakeland with Frank Lloyd Wright
8. Photographs: Philadelphia Art Alliance
9. Photographs: Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII
10. Photographs: Blai’s Friends and Family
11. Photographs: Miscellaneous
1. Photographs: Early Years in Russia and Paris
2. Photographs: Sculptures: Long Beach Island Foundation
1. Negatives: Dedication of the Arts & Sciences Bldg.: July 4, 1949
2. Negatives: Pictures taken at first exhibit of Arts & Sciences Group: August 6, 1949
3. Negatives: Pictures of art center nearing completion (1st building): Monday August 8, 1949
4. Negatives: Last pictures taken at Foundation before closing for the season: Saturday September 10, 1949
5. Negatives: Miscellaneous (see photographs from “Final work of Glassboro Student June 1975” in Box 9-5)
6. Negatives: Miscellaneous
7. Negatives: Miscellaneous
SMALL BOX 12
1. Negatives: Miscellaneous
Series VI: Scrapbooks
Scrapbooks complied by him and the Tyler students and faculty.
1. Scrapbooks: 25th Anniversary to Blai from Tyler students and faculty
2. Scrapbooks: Long Beach Island Foundation
Series VII: Books
Various books that were included in the collection.
1. Books: Fox, Robert B. Take My Hand. Deseret Book Company, 1965. (signed by Robert Fox)
2. Books: Oliveroff, Andre. Flight of the Swan: A Memory of Pavlova. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1932.
3. Books: La Vierge En France. New York: Demotte Inc., 1930.
4. Books: Thrift, Charles T. Jr. Through Three Decades: At Florida Southern College: Lakeland, FL. Lakeland, FL: The Florida Southern College Press, 1955. (signed by Ludd Spivey – Florida Southern College Dean)
Series VIII: Reels
16 and 35 mm reels.
SMALL BOX 15
1. Reels: Casting
2. Reels: Casting
1. Reels: Portrait Sculpture in Clay by Dean Blai of Dr. Robert L. Johnson, Pres. Of Temple
EXTRA LARGE FLAT BOX 18 (folders 1-6 listed in Boris Blai Personal Papers collection)
7. Papers: Awards/Honors (See additional materials in Box 2-6)
8. Stella Elkins Tyler: Photographs (See additional materials Box 7-4)
9. Photographs: Sculptures: Various (See additional materials Box 9-2)
10. Photographs: Photographs taken from frames
11. Photographs: Loveladies Harbor, NJ
*Attached is a list of Boris Blai’s sculptures that are located on Temple University Main Campus.
Processed by Holly Beth Wilson
Boris Blai Sculptures located on
Temple University Main Campus
Object Description Home Location
Sculpture Bronze Portrait Bust “Carroll S. Wright 1895-1967” Kresge Science Hall
20”h x 9”w x 9”deep. Room 300
Sculpture Bronze Portrait Bust With Black Marble Base Kresge Science Hall
“W. Wayne Babcock 1872-1963” Room 300
20”h x 8”w x 9”deep.
Sculpture Carved wood bust of a woman. 22”h x 17”w x 11”deep. Tyler Admin.
Sculpture Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Charles E. Buery. 30 x 30 x18 Beury Hall Lobby
In Base. 36 x 25 x 45
Sculpture Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Russell Conwell. 21 x 15 x15 Mitten Hall Court
Sculpture Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Bust Robert Livingston Johnson Traylor Building
28”h x 24”w x 13”d. Storage
Sculpture 2 Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Busts (1) Millard Gladfelter Traylor Building
4th TU President (1953) (25x21x12) and (2) Dr. Paul A. Storage
Anderson 5th TU President (26x20x10) Approx. 3’tall.
Sculpture Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Head Russell Conwell. Founders Garden off
3’6 x 2’3 (1953) Granite Base. Placed in Spring of 1968 Berks Mall between
Park Ave. & 13th St.
Sculpture Bronze Sculpture. Johnny Ring 5x3x2. 6 feet Granite Mitten Hall Garden
Base. Placed in Mitten Hall Garden (north of Mitten
Hall) in Fall of 1964. Dedicated April 30, 1965. Originally
Acquired as a gift to Tyler School of Art by the Class
Of ’58, then moved to Main Campus in 1964.
Sculptures of Boris Blai by Other Artists
Located on Temple University Main Campus
Object Description Home Location
Painting Oil/Canvas. Dr. Boris Blai, Founder Tyler School of Art. Paley Library
36”h x 30” w. Ground floor Lobby.
Artist: Constance Yaros in 1978.
Painting Oil/Canvas. Scene in Tyler Hall. 16.5”h x 20.5”w. 1938 Tyler Admin.
Artist: William A. Hildebrandt. Historically important
Scene in Tyler Hall depicting Dean Boris Blai, Mrs. Tyler
And identifiable students.
Painting Oil/Canvas. Portrait of Boris Blai. 36”h x 24”w. Tyler Admin.
Artist: A student.
Painting Oil/Canvas. Dean Boris Blai - Himself. Circa 1940. Tyler Admin.
Located in Dean’s Reception Room by the window with
An overhead light. 15.75” x 14.5”. Donated gift to Temple
Artist: Morris Shatzkin.
Sculpture Bronze on Marble Base. Portrait bust of Boris Blai. 1979. Tyler Admin.
Artist: Constance G. Yaros. Boris Blai was the founder of
Tyler School of Art and its Dean from 1935-1960.
12”h x 7”w x 10”d.
 Perry, Erma. Your Happiness Is In Your Hands: The biography of a sculptor-teacher. Undated. Print.