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Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers

Collection ID

SCRC 23

Related Subject(s)

Collecting Area(s)

Description

Collection Summary

Title
Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers

Dates
1917-1994

Creator
Blai, Boris, 1893-1985

Collection ID

SCRC 23

Quantity
14.5 linear feet (17 boxes)

Repository
Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

Language
Materials in English   

Detailed Collection Information

Biographical Note

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 first 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 Wideners, the Wassermans, the Gimbels, and others.  Through these contacts, he 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, later 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. 

Blai received many honors in his lifetime, according to him the most important one being 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.

Description of Collection

This collection contains personal correspondence, a large amount of photographs of Blai’s sculptures along with negatives, and additional personal papers, including correspondence with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Organization and Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 9 series as follows:

Series 1: Papers, 1924-1994, undated
Series 2: Publicity, 1933-1985, undated
Series 3: Publications, 1917-1989, undated
Series 4: Stella Elkins Tyler, 1936, undated
Series 5: Photographs, 1949-1975, undated
Series 6: Scrapbooks, undated
Series 7: Books, 1930-1955
Series 8: Reels, undated
Series 9: Oversize Materials, undated

Series 1: Papers, 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. 

Series 2: Publicity, includes publicity related to Beth Shalom, Barnegat Lighthouse, LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, Lakeland and Tyler.

Series 3: Publications, includes several publications including several articles which were published by Blai.

Series 4: Stella Elkins Tyler, consists of all of Blai’s materials relating to Stella Elkins Tyler, including some correspondence and photographs. 

Series 5: Photographs, includes photographs of his sculptures and are organized by their title.  These boxes also include photos of Blai himself with his friends and family. 

Series 6: Scrapbooks, contains complied by Blai and the Tyler students and faculty.

Series 7: Books, contains various books that were included in the collection.

Series 8: Reels, contains 16 and 35 mm film reels.

Series 9: Oversize Materials, contains materials stored in an oversized box shared with the Boris Blai Personal Papers.

Patron Information

Research Access

Collection is open for research.

Collections Stored Off-Site

This collection may be housed off-site at the Library Depository, and require up to two business days to retrieve. Please review the finding aid and be prepared to identify specific materials to be retrieved. Contact the Special Collections Research Center in advance of your visit, so that materials may be relocated to the reading room for research.

Publication and Copyright Information

The Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries. Intellectual property rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for determining the identity of rights holders and obtaining their permission for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Preferred Citation

[Description and date of item], [Box/folder number], Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers, SCRC 23, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Related Material

Boris Blai Personal Papers, SCRC 21, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dr. Ruth Leventhal and Dr. Anita Simon, Boris Blai’s stepdaughters, January 2009.

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid prepared in July 2010 by Holly Wilson. Finding aid revised according to contemporary archival standards in September 2017 by Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services.

Index Terms

The following headings have been used to index the description of this collection in Temple University’s electronic catalog:

Personal/Family Names:
Blai, Boris, 1893-1985
Tyler, Stella Elkins, 1884-1963
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959

Corporate Names:
Beth Sholom Synagogue (Elkins Park, Pa.)
Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
Oak Lane Day School
Tyler School of Art

Subjects:
Art -- Study and teaching -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
Sculpture, American -- Pennsylvania
Sculpture -- Exhibitions

Places:
Elkins Park (Pa.)
Philadelphia (Pa.)

Material Types:
16mm
35mm
Administrative records
Books
Clippings
Correspondence
Drawings
Exhibition catalogs
Manuscripts
Negatives
Objects
Photographs
Posters
Publications
Scrapbooks
Speeches

Inventory

Series 1: Papers, 1924-1994, undated

Papers, 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          1          Correspondence (includes letters to and from Frank Lloyd Wright)          1924-1965

1          2          Correspondence          1966-1994

1          3          Correspondence: Bertha Blai          undated

1          4          Correspondence: Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII          undated

1          5          Boris and Bertha          undated

1          6          Receipts          undated

1          7          List of Property          undated

1          8          Mailing List          undated

1          9          Biography (includes an in-depth biography “Your Happiness Is In Your Hands: A Biography of a Sculptor-teacher” by Erma Perry)          undated

1          10          History (includes a speech by Bertha Blai after Boris’s death)          undated

1          11          Boris: Medical Records          undated

1          12          Remembrances of Boris          undated

1          13          Oak Lane Country Day School          1928-1933

1          14          Oak Lane Country Day School          1934-1947

1          15          Oak Lane Country Day School          1978-1989

1          16          Oak Lane Country Day School: Methods and Curriculum Papers          undated

2          1          Synagogue Beth Shalom: Correspondence          undated

2          2          Synagogue Beth Shalom: Publicity          undated

2          3          Synagogue Beth Shalom: Publications          undated

2          4          Synagogue Beth Shalom: Sketches          undated

2          5          Synagogue Beth Shalom: Notes/Quotes/Ideas          undated

2          6          Awards/Honors (New Jersey State Legislative Award in  Extra Large Box 18-7) (Art Alliance Award photographs in Box 9-8 )          undated

2          7          Tyler Alumni          undated

2          8          Barnegat Lighthouse          undated

2          9          Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences          undated

2          10          Loveladies and Lighthouse          undated

2          11          Roman Bronze Works (company that Blai purchased his metal from)          undated

2          12          “Evolution” (one of Blai’s Sculptures)          undated

2          13          Harvey Cedars (papers relating to the 1962 hurricane that destroyed his home)          undated

2          14          Widener College          undated

2          15          Burlington College          undated

2          16          Boris Blai Memorial Loan Fund          undated

2          17          Miscellaneous          undated

 

Series 2: Publicity, 1933-1985, undated

Publicity, includes publicity related to Beth Shalom, Barnegat Lighthouse, LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, Lakeland and Tyler.

3          1          Beth Shalom          undated

3          1          Barnegat Lighthouse

3          1          Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences          undated

3          1          Lakeland and Ludd Spivey          undated

3          1          Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII          undated

3          1          Tyler Articles          undated

3          1          Newspaper Clippings          1933-1959

3          1          Newspaper Clippings          1960-1985

3          1          Newspaper Clippings: Miscellaneous          undated

 

Series 3: Publications, 1917-1989, undated

Publications, includes several publications including several articles which were published by Blai.

4          1          Publications by Blai (includes “Happiness is in Your Hands”)          undated

4          1          Art in Focus          undated

4          1          The Artists Magazine          undated

4          1          Boris Blai College of Contemporary Art          undated

4          1          The Century Club Bulletin          undated

4          1          Contemporary Life          undated

4          1          Du Cret School of the Arts          undated

4          1          Glassboro State College          undated

4          1          The Journal of Health & Physical Education          undated

4          1          Kenilworth Art Association          undated

4          1          The Lehigh Navigator          undated

4          1          Music Publishers Journal          undated

4          1          New Jersey Music and Arts (includes an article written by Blai about wood carving)          undated

4          1          Ocean County College          undated

4          1          Philadelphia Art Alliance          undated

4          1          Philadelphia Museum of Art          undated

5          1          Philadelphia Page One          undated

5          1          Your Schools in Cherry Hill          undated

5          1          National Education Association          undated

5          1          Exhibition Catalogs and other artists          1917-1944

5          1          Exhibition Catalogs and other artists          1959-1989

5          1          Blai’s Exhibits          undated

5          1          Russian Pamphlets (pamphlets written in Russian)          undated

5          1          Miscellaneous          undated

6          1          Temple University          undated

6          1          Temple University: Temple Alumni Review          undated

6          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art          undated

6          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Gargoyles          1947-1949

6          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Gargoyles          1950-1952

 

Series 4: Stella Elkins Tyler, 1936, undated

Stella Elkins Tyler, consists of all of Blai’s materials relating to Stella Elkins Tyler, including some correspondence and photographs. 

7          1          Letters (includes a Christmas card from 1936 that was taken out of a frame)          1936, undated

7          1          Exhibit Catalogs          undated

7          1          Newspaper Clippings          undated

7          1          Photographs (see Extra Large Box 18-8)          undated

7          1          Photographs: Sculptures          undated

 

Series 5: Photographs, 1949-1975, undated

Photographs, includes photographs of his sculptures and are organized by their title.  These boxes also include photos of Blai himself with his friends and family. 

8          1          Photographs: Sculptures: Seal Girl          undated

8          2          Photographs: Sculptures: Organic Maiden          undated

8          3          Photographs: Sculptures: Evening Garment          undated

8          4          Photographs: Sculptures: Angel in Fountain          undated

8          5          Photographs: Sculptures: Eve With Adam          undated

8          6          Photographs: Sculptures: Evolution          undated

8          7          Photographs: Sculptures: Margot Fontayne          undated

8          8          Photographs: Sculptures: Wood Carvings          undated

8          9          Photographs: Sculptures: Triangle Girl          undated

8          10          Photographs: Sculptures: Mary Wigman          undated

8          11          Photographs: Sculptures: Rhythm of the Sea          undated

8          12          Photographs: Sculptures: Johnnie Ring          undated

8          13          Photographs: Sculptures: Pavlova          undated

8          14          Photographs: Sculptures: Girl With Bear          undated

8          15          Photographs: Sculptures: Patty Green          undated

8          16          Photographs: Sculptures: General Meade          undated

8          17          Photographs: Sculptures: Dr. & Mrs. McCarthy: Busts and Photos          undated

9          1          Photographs: Sculptures: Mandell: Photos and Clay Bust          undated

9          2          Photographs: Sculptures: Various (See additional materials Extra Large Box 18-9)          undated

9          3          Photographs: Photos for Modeling: Philip Klein and Soloff          undated

9          4          Photographs: Senator Davis          undated

9          5          Photographs: Final work of Glassboro Students - June 1975 (see the negatives in

Box 11-5)          June 1975

9          6          Photographs: Frank Lloyd Wright          undated

9          7          Photographs: Lakeland with Frank Lloyd Wright          undated

9          8          Photographs: Philadelphia Art Alliance          undated

9          9          Photographs: Tyler at Ft. Dix during WWII          undated

9          10          Photographs: Blai’s Friends and Family          undated

9          11          Photographs: Miscellaneous          undated

10          1          Photographs: Early Years in Russia and Paris          undated

10          2          Photographs: Sculptures: Long Beach Island Foundation          undated

11          1          Negatives: Dedication of the Arts & Sciences Bldg.          July 4, 1949

11          2          Negatives: Pictures taken at first exhibit of Arts & Sciences Group          August 6, 1949

11          3          Negatives: Pictures of art center nearing completion (1st building)          August 8, 1949

11          4          Negatives: Last pictures taken at Foundation before closing for the season:          September 10, 1949

11          5          Negatives: Miscellaneous (see photographs from “Final work of Glassboro Student June 1975” in Box 9-5)          1975

11          6          Negatives: Miscellaneous          undated

11          7          Negatives: Miscellaneous          undated

12          1          Negatives: Miscellaneous          undated

 

Series 6: Scrapbooks, undated

Scrapbooks, contains complied by Blai and the Tyler students and faculty.

13          1          25th Anniversary to Blai from Tyler students and faculty          undated

13          2          Long Beach Island Foundation          undated

 

Series 7: Books, 1930-1955

Books, contains various books that were included in the collection.

14          1          Fox, Robert B. Take My Hand. Deseret Book Company, 1965. (signed by Robert Fox)          1965

14          2          Oliveroff, Andre. Flight of the Swan: A Memory of Pavlova. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.          1932

14          3          La Vierge En France. New York: Demotte Inc.          1930

14          4          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)          1955

 

Series 8: Reels, undated

Reels, contains 16 and 35 mm film reels.

15          1          Casting          undated

15          2          Casting          undated

16          1          Portrait Sculpture in Clay by Dean Blai of Dr. Robert L. Johnson, President of Temple          undated

 

Series 9: Oversize Materials, undated

Oversize Materials, contains materials stored in an oversized box shared with the Boris Blai Personal Papers.

Oversized 18          Papers: Awards/Honors (See additional materials in Box 2-6)          undated

Oversized 18          Stella Elkins Tyler: Photographs (See additional materials Box 7-4)          undated

Oversized 18          Photographs: Sculptures: Various (See additional materials Box 9-2)          undated

Oversized 18          Photographs: Photographs taken from frames          undated

Oversized 18          Photographs: Loveladies Harbor, NJ          undated