Boris Blai Personal Papers

Date: 
1915 - 1989
Footage: 
7.75 linear feet (18 boxes)
Collecting Area: 

Collection Summary

Title

Boris Blai Personal Papers

Dates
1915-1989

Creator
Blai, Boris, 1893-1985

Quantity
7.75 linear feet (18 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 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.

Addendum: Boris Blai Sculptures located on Temple University Main Campus

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
1934

Sculpture
Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Bust Robert Livingston Johnson
Traylor Building Storage
28”h x 24”w x 13”d.

Sculpture
2 Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Busts (1) Millard Gladfelter
Traylor Building Storage
 4th TU President (1953) (25x21x12) and (2) Dr. Paul A.
Anderson 5th TU President (26x20x10) Approx. 3’tall.

Sculpture
Bronze Sculpture. Portrait Head Russell Conwell.
3’6 x 2’3 (1953) Granite Base.
Placed in Spring of 1968
Founders Garden off 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.

Painting
Oil/Canvas. Dr. Boris Blai, Founder Tyler School of Art.
Paley Library Ground floor Lobby
36”h x 30” w.
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.

                     

Organization and Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 11 series as follows:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1933-1983
Series 2: Publicity, 1920-1989, undated
Series 3: Organization: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, undated
Series 4: Publications, undated
Series 5: Colleges/Schools, undated
Series 6: Blai’s Papers, 1920-1966, undated
Series 7: Photographs, undated
Series 8: Photo Albums, 1951-1963
Series 9: Scrapbooks, 1915-1969, undated
Series 10: Books, 1925-1974, undated
Series 11: Oversize Materials, 1950, undated

Series 1, Correspondence, includes correspondence from 1933-1983.

Series 2, Publicity, includes publicity for Blai’s gallery openings, accomplishments, appointments, etc.

Series 3, Organization: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, includes material chronicling the founding of the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences including publicity and considerable amount of photographs.

Series 4, Publications, includes Blai’s publications from Tyler, his own exhibitions, and art catalogs.

Series 5, Colleges/Schools, 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.

Series 6, Blai’s Papers, includes Blai’s personal papers from the years 1920-1966.

Series 7, Photographs, includes 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. 

Series 8, Photo Albums, contains photo albums of LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences and Tyler School of Art functions.

Series 9, Scrapbooks, includes 10 scrapbooks made up of photographs and newspaper clippings.

Series 10, Books, includes an assortment of books owned by Blai.

Series 11, Oversize Materials, contains materials stored in an oversized box shared with the Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers collection.

 

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 Personal papers 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 Personal Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Related Material

Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Donated by Mrs. Bertha Blai, 1985.

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid prepared in June 2010 by Holly Beth 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

Corporate Names:
Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences
Tyler School of Art

Subjects:
Art $x Study and teaching $z Pennsylvania $z Philadelphia
Sculpture, American $z Pennsylvania
Sculpture $x Exhibitions

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

Material Types:
Administrative records
Books
Clippings
Correspondence
Exhibition catalogs
Manuscripts
Negatives
Photographs
Publications
Scrapbooks

Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1933-1983

Series 1, Correspondence, includes correspondence from 1933-1983.

1          1          Correspondence          1933-1950

1          2          Correspondence          1953-1954

1          3          Correspondence          1955-1956

1          4          Correspondence          1957-1958

1          5          Correspondence          1959-1962

1          6          Correspondence          1963-1966

1          7          Correspondence, Boris Blai College          1966

1          8          Correspondence          1967-1970

1          9          Correspondence          1971-1983

 

Series 2: Publicity, 1920-1989, undated

Series 2, Publicity, includes publicity for Blai’s gallery openings, accomplishments, appointments, etc.

2          1          Publicity          1920-1929

2          2          Publicity          1930-1939

2          3          Publicity          1940-1949

2          4          Publicity          1950-1959

2          5          Publicity          1960-1969

2          6          Publicity          1970-1979

2          7          Publicity          1980-1989

2          8          Publicity          undated

2          9          Publicity: Miscellaneous Clippings          undated

 

Series 3: Organization: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, undated

Series 3, Organization: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, includes material chronicling the founding of the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences including publicity and considerable amount of photographs.

3          1          Founding          undated

3          2          Correspondence          undated

3          3          Foundation Minutes          undated

3          4          Publications          undated

3          5          Marine Biology Laboratory Plans          undated

3          6          Publicity          undated

3          7          Photographs          undated

 

Series 4: Publications, undated

Series 4, Publications, includes Blai’s publications from Tyler, his own exhibitions, and art catalogs.

4          1          Exhibitions (Blai’s own art exhibitions and some he sponsored)          undated

4          1          Art Catalogs          undated

4          1          College Catalogs          undated

4          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art          undated

4          1          Miscellaneous          undated

 

Series 5: Colleges/Schools, undated

Series 5, Colleges/Schools, 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.

5          1          Boris Blai College of Contemporary Arts          undated

5          2          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art          undated

5          3          New University of Palm Beach          undated

5          4          Florida Southern College (includes his honorary diploma – Doctor of Fine Arts)          undated

5          5          Glassboro State College          undated

5          6          Ocean County College          undated

 

Series 6: Blai’s Papers, 1920-1966, undated

Series 6, Blai’s Papers, includes Blai’s personal papers from the years 1920-1966.

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Philadelphia          1920-1930

6          1          Blai’s Papers          1940-1949

6          1          Blai’s Papers          1950-1959

6          1          Blai’s Papers          1960-1969

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Florida          1962-1964

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Barnegat Lighthouse Centennial          May 1957

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Wilmington Show: Blai & Wyeth          March 1966

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Dean Blai’s Class Papers (term papers from his students)          undated

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Fort Dix          undated

6          1          Blai’s Papers: Miscellaneous printed material          undated

 

Series 7: Photographs, undated

Series 7, Photographs, includes 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. 

7          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Activities          undated

7          2          L.B.I. Foundation of the Arts & Sciences          undated

7          3          Frank Lloyd Wright, Dr. Ludd Spivey, Lakeland (sic) Southern College [i.e. Florida Southern College] (this folder includes the letter from Frank Lloyd Wright)          undated

7          4          “Organic Dancer” and Mr. & Mrs. Rodale          undated

7          5          Johnny Ring, Conwell and Beury bust (this material was taken from “The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tate McKenzie”          undated

7          6          “Russian Dancers”, President Chamberlain, Dean Uorce          undated

8          1          Pavlowa, La Fontayne, Bala Laika          undated

8          2          Manfred Krauskopf          undated

8          3          Blai Head Shots          undated

8          4          Unlabeled (includes photos of Blai as a youth)          undated

8          5          Unlabeled (includes photos of Stella Elkins Tyler)          undated

8          6          Unlabeled          undated

9          1          Sculptures 1 (see additional oversize photographs in Box 18-1)          undated

9          2          Sculptures 2          undated

9          3          Graduation, etc.          undated

9          4          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art: Fort Dix, NJ          undated

9          5          Blai and Friends & Colleagues          undated

9          6          Portraits of Blai          undated

9          7          Negatives          undated

9          8          Miscellaneous (includes a pencil drawing of a woman)          undated

 

Series 8: Photo Albums, 1951-1963

Series 8, Photo Albums, contains photo albums of LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences and Tyler School of Art functions.

10          1          Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences          1963

10          2          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts Annual Dean’s Ball          1951

10          3          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts Testimonial Dinner in Honor of Blai          1953

 

Series 9: Scrapbooks, 1915-1969, undated

Series 9, Scrapbooks, includes 10 scrapbooks made up of photographs and newspaper clippings.

11          1          Fort Dix          undated

11          2          Scrapbooks          1915-1933

12          1          Oak Lane Country Day School          1928-1935

12          2          Unlabeled: various dates          undated

13          1          Scrapbooks          1934-1947

13          2          Scrapbooks          1950-1959

13          3          Lakeland: Frank Lloyd Wright          1949-1960

14          1          Scrapbooks          1965-1967

14          2          Scrapbooks: Boris Blai Dean’s Ball on His Retirement          1960

15          1          Scrapbooks          1969

 

Series 10: Books, 1925-1974, undated

Series 10, Books, includes an assortment of books owned by Blai.

16          1          Art Catalogues: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (3 catalogues)          1925, 1926, 1931

16          2          Art Catalogues: Du Cret School of the Fine Arts          1971-1974

16          3          Annual Report: Museum of Science & Industry          1930

16          4          КАЛЕНДАР (this book is in Russian.  Translates as “Calendar”)         undated

16          5          “The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie”         undated

16          6          The Legend of Johnny Ring         undated

16          7          Painting at Lynnewood Hall         undated

17          1          Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts (a bound book of the schools catalogs)         undated

17          2          Interlachen (Florida Southern College yearbook)          1950

 

Series 11: Oversize Materials, 1950, undated

Series 11, Oversize Materials, contains materials stored in an oversized box shared with the Boris Blai Additional Personal and Family Papers collection.

18          1          Photographs: Sculptures (see additional photographs in Box 9-1)          undated

18          2          Photographs: Photos taken out of picture frames (includes 2 photos 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)          undated

18          3          Photo Album: Album of Blai’s sculptures (taken out of album and into portfolio due to poor condition)          undated

18          4          Large fabric poster of the saying “Losing Our Brains By Not Using Our Hands” written in black ink          undated

18          5          2 copies of a large rolled poster of the Johnny Ring story          undated

18          6          Scrapbooks: Large Photograph Scrapbook of Blai’s sculptures          undated