Boris Blai Personal Papers
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 Mrs. Bertha Blai (Blai’s second wife) in 1985, is a collection of Boris Blai’s personal papers later in life. There is a significant amount of newspaper clippings detailing Blai’s life as a sculptor and educator. It includes much of his personal correspondence, including a letter from Frank Lloyd Wright, who he recruited to design Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA. Also, included are several scrapbooks consisting of newspaper clippings, letters and other miscellaneous printed material. Photographs also make up a considerable portion of this collection.
The collection was donated by Mrs. Bertha Blai in 1985. The material is housed in 17 Hollinger document cases and one extra large box (11 ¼ ln. ft.) Processing and inventorying of the collection was done by Holly Beth Wilson.
III. Organization: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
VI. Blai’s Papers
VIII. Photo Albums
XI. Oversize Materials
Series I: Correspondence
This includes correspondence from 1933-1983.
1. Correspondence: 1933-1950
2. Correspondence: 1951-1952
3. Correspondence: 1953-1954
4. Correspondence: 1955-1956
5. Correspondence: 1957-1958
6. Correspondence: 1959-1962
7. Correspondence: 1963-1966
8. Correspondence: Boris Blai College: 1966
9. Correspondence: 1967-1970
10. Correspondence: 1971-1983
Series II: Publicity
This series includes publicity for Blai’s gallery openings, accomplishments, appointments, etc.
1. Publicity: 1920-1929
2. Publicity: 1930-1939
3. Publicity: 1940-1949
4. Publicity: 1950-1959
5. Publicity: 1960-1969
6. Publicity: 1970-1979
7. Publicity: 1980-1989
8. Publicity: Undated
9. Publicity: Miscellaneous Clippings
Series III: Organizations:
This includes material chronicling the founding of the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences including publicity and considerable amount of photographs.
1. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Founding
2. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Correspondence
3. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Foundation Minutes
4. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Publications
5. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Marine Biology Laboratory Plans
6. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Publicity
7. Organizations: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences: Photographs
Series IV: Publications
This includes Blai’s publications from Tyler, his own exhibitions, and art catalogs.
1. Publications: Exhibitions (Blai’s own art exhibitions and some he sponsored)
2. Publications: Art Catalogs
3. Publications: College Catalogs
4. Publications: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art
5. Publications: Miscellaneous
Series V: Colleges/Schools
This consists of the colleges and schools that Blai either founded or was a part of in some way. Each of the folders includes publications, correspondence, publicity, and photographs related to that school.
1. Colleges/Schools: Boris Blai College of Contemporary Arts
2. Colleges/Schools: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art
3. Colleges/Schools: New University of Palm Beach
4. Colleges/Schools: Florida Southern College (includes his honorary diploma – Doctor of Fine Arts)
5. Colleges/Schools: Glassboro State College
6. Colleges/Schools: Ocean County College
Series VI: Blai’s Papers
This includes Blai’s personal papers from the years 1920- 1966.
1. Blai’s Papers: Philadelphia 1920-1930
2. Blai’s Papers: 1940-1949
3. Blai’s Papers: 1950-1959
4. Blai’s Papers: 1960-1969
5. Blai’s Papers: Florida 1962-1964
6. Blai’s Papers: Barnegat Lighthouse Centennial: May 1957
7. Blai’s Papers: Wilmington Show: March 1966: Blai & Wyeth
8. Blai’s Papers: Dean Blai’s Class Papers (term papers from his students)
9. Blai’s Papers: Fort Dix
10. Blai’s Papers: Miscellaneous printed material
Series VII: Photographs
These boxes include a significant amount of photographs of Blai’s sculptures and also Blai at various social events. Of interest, there is a photograph and letter from Frank Lloyd Wright in folder 3.
1. Photographs: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Activities
2. Photographs: L.B.I. Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
3. Photographs: Frank Lloyd Wright, Dr. Ludd Spivey, Lakeland (sic) Southern College [i.e. Florida Southern College] (this folder includes the letter
from Frank Lloyd Wright)
4. Photographs: “Organic Dancer” and Mr. & Mrs. Rodale
5. Photographs: Johnny Ring, Conwell and Beury bust (this material was taken from “The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tate McKenzie”
6. Photographs: “Russian Dancers”, President Chamberlain, Dean Uorce
1. Photographs: Pavlowa, La Fontayne, Bala Laika
2. Photographs: Manfred Krauskopf
3. Photographs: Blai Head Shots
4. Photographs: Unlabeled (includes photos of Blai as a youth)
5. Photographs: Unlabeled (includes photos of Stella Elkins Tyler)
6. Photographs: Unlabeled
1. Photographs: Sculptures 1 (see additional oversize photographs in Box 18-1)
2. Photographs: Sculptures 2
3. Photographs: Graduation, etc.
4. Photographs: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art – Fort Dix, NJ
5. Photographs: Blai and Friends & Colleagues
6. Photographs: Portraits of Blai
7. Photographs: Negatives
8. Photographs: Miscellaneous (includes a pencil drawing of a woman)
Series VIII: Photo Albums
Photo Albums of LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences and Tyler School of Art functions.
1. Photo Albums: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences 1963
2. Photo Albums: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts Annual Dean’s Ball 1951
3. Photo Albums: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts Testimonial Dinner in Honor of Blai 1953
Series IX: Scrapbooks
There are 10 scrapbooks made up of photographs and newspaper clippings.
1. Scrapbooks: Fort Dix
2. Scrapbooks: 1915-1933
1. Scrapbooks: Oak Lane Country Day School 1928-1935
2. Scrapbooks: Unlabeled: various dates
1. Scrapbooks: 1934-1947
2. Scrapbooks: 1950-1959
3. Scrapbooks: 1949-1960: Lakeland: Frank Lloyd Wright
1. Scrapbooks: 1965-1967
2. Scrapbooks: Boris Blai Dean’s Ball 1960: On His Retirement
1. Scrapbooks: 1969
Series X: Books
This includes an assortment of books owned by Blai.
1. Books: Art Catalogues: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (3 catalogues – 1925, 1926, 1931)
2. Books: Art Catalogues: Du Cret School of the Fine Arts (1971-1974)
3. Books: Annual Report: Museum of Science & Industry 1930
4. Books: КАЛЕНДАР (this book is in Russian. Translates as “Calendar”)
5. Books: “The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie”
6. Books: The Legend of Johnny Ring
7. Books: Painting at Lynnewood Hall
1. Books: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts (a bound book of the schools catalogs)
2. Books: 1950 Interlachen (Florida Southern College yearbook)
Series XI: Oversize Materials
EXTRA LARGE FLAT BOX 18 (this box also includes large items from the collection “Additional Blai Personal and Family Papers” - see that collection for list)
1. Photographs: Sculptures (see additional photographs in Box 9-1)
2. Photographs: Photos taken out of picture frames (includes 2 photo’s of Stella Elkins Tyler when she was a young girl and a picture of the
graduating class from Florida Southern College in 1950 – located on top of box due to size)
3. Photo Album: Album of Blai’s sculptures (taken out of album and into portfolio due to poor condition)
4. Large fabric poster of the saying “Losing Our Brains By Not Using Our Hands” written in black ink
5. 2 copies of a large rolled poster of the Johnny Ring story
6. Scrapbooks: Large Photograph Scrapbook of Blai’s sculptures
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. Beury. 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.
Processed by Holly Beth Wilson
 Perry, Erma. Your Happiness Is In Your Hands: The biography of a sculptor-teacher. Undated. Print.