On our way to St. Louis in July, Ruth and I stopped at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City to see the Bloch Collection that went on display last March. It’s surely worth a stop and this museum, defying the times, is still free.
Henry and his brother Richard founded H & R Block. This tax preparation company became a business empire with 12,000 offices. Their first was on Main Street in downtown Kansas City. They reportedly changed the company’s name from Bloch to Block because BLOCH was hard to pronounce and spell. Henry married Marion Helzberg. They eventually had 4 children and began filling their home with great art.
Twenty years after the Blochs started collecting, their purchases were considered one of the most important blocks of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces still in private hands. Ten years ago the Nelson-Atkins added a Bloch building to its complex, and in 2015 the Blochs gave 28 of their best works to the Nelson-Atkins. The museum bought another. The Bloch Galleries now intermingle the 29 with other works of art from these 2 well-loved eras almost doubling what visitors see from such important Impressionists as Renoir and Posts like Van Gogh. The Bloch gifts are identified with blue squares.
Henry’s favorite painting among the gifts was Gustave Caillebotte’s “Boat Moored on the Seine at Argenteuil”. In addition to being a masterful painter, Caillebotte, member of an upper-class family, was also a French sailing champion and yacht designer.
The Bloch galleries contain some unusual works. One that was not a Bloch gift is an etching by Edouard Manet called “Cat and Flowers”. My favorite among their gifts is a magnificent Manet painting called “The Croquet Party”. Not surprisingly, Nelson-Atkins is using the latter to promote its new collection to museum goers. Ruth immediately went to the gift store to see if she could find a copy of the cat for my sister Martha, who dotes on felines.
ps The windmill painting is by Piet Mondrian, who is far better known for his abstract works of eye-drawing squares. Monet also loved to paint windmills.