Robert N. Blair (1912-2002), Two Horses, undated; watercolor, 17 x 27; Collection of Joseph Cardina

Robert N. Blair (1912-2002), Two Horses, undated; watercolor, 17 x 27; Collection of Joseph Cardina

It Hangs in My Living Room by Kim Cardina

Monday, May 6, 2013

It is above my sofa and has been used as inspiration for redecorating my living room colors and style. My father in law collected Blair’s watercolor paintings which can also be seen hanging in my sisters- in-law homes around Buffalo. After seeing Burchfield’s work on many occasions while visiting the museum, I felt there might be a small inkling of Burchfield’s influence in the watercolor painting of two horses peacefully grazing in a sunlit watery area of a meadow. Just recently I decided it was time to find out more than to simply be pleased with its presence in my living room.

The artist’s name is Robert Blair which I already knew, because my father-in-law collected Blair’s watercolor paintings when he worked at Benjamin’s Art Gallery many years ago. Researching I found similar Blair artworks with horses but none like this one, yet discovered more of his work I would want to see if not in my home, then on exhibition to admire their color and expressiveness. I can estimate my Blair painting may have been created after World War II after Blair served and was permitted to be an artist in the field. I did find a link between Burchfield and Blair’s art; both are connected to our region.

Robert Blair travelled extensively and his art has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions and museums, and collected by many galleries and museums. His wife Jeanette Blair is also a watercolor artist whose beautiful paintings I ran across during my research. I discovered Blair and his wife met Burchfield in 1934 when their lifelong friendship began. One source stated Burchfield and Blair traded paintings due to their mutual admiration and friendship. Apparently in Burchfield’s journals he also praised Blair stating he would want to see more of his work. Regardless of precise truth in those stories, there was a human connection, and I think a little bit of Burchfield’s influence is in my Blair watercolor painting, not surprisingly. It is like listening to a particular artist’s music. What influences can you hear in the music?

Kim Cardina


Kim Cardina is a graduate student at Buffalo State in Creative Studies with an undergraduate degree in Art Education and Painting. She enjoys taking art classes and volunteering regularly at Buffalo Arts Studio. Her daughters recently went to France for a senior graduation gift and were able to visit the Louvre before she even had a chance to! Now they really know how small Mona Lisa is.


“A longtime friend and former student of artist Robert Blair, Wendy Warner has spent the last year curating an exhibition of the artist’s work for the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts scheduled to open August 2, 2011. Some 52 rarely seen paintings and drawings provide an extraordinary glimpse into Blair’s experience as a paratrooper-glider in the 17th and 82nd Airborne Divisions during World War II and his later association and friendship with Charles Burchfield who praised Blair in his journals as one of the only young students whose work he would like to see more of.”


“In 1934 Blair met renowned watercolorist Charles Burchfield who was immediately impressed with the fluidity of the young artist's watercolors. Through their mutual admiration they became lifelong friends and on several occasions even traded paintings. Blair's watercolors have been exhibited widely in both in the United States and Europe, has won many prestigious awards, and was honored with over fifty one-man shows in his lifetime.”

“Edna M. Lindemann, listed as Curator at the time, always maintained that Burchfield wanted the Center to serve other Western New York artists…In 1966, all acquisitions were Burchfield works except for one painting by Robert N. Blair.” …

First Western New York work acquired in 1966:

Robert N. Blair (1912-2003)

Edge of Holland, 1949

Watercolor, 22 x 30 ½ inches (sight)

Gift of the artist, 1966:003.000

Robert N. Blair (1912-2003), who was a Buffalo Print Club member, is better known for his watercolors. He took a more traditional approach to the medium than his mentor, Burchfield, as can be seen in his firsthand documentation of World War II in Europe and later gestural landscapes of New York, New England, and the Southwest. Blair donated 165 works from his World War II portfolio in two gifts made in 1985 and 1986; they are rare, more personal alternatives to photography that convey subjective observations of the Battle of the Bulge, the destruction of Berlin, dislocated citizens, and American soldiers as written by Nancy Weekly,

According to “Blair's work is in museums all over the country including The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

“American artist Robert Noel Blair (1912-2003) was a prolific western New York artist, painter, sculptor, print maker and teacher. He is best known for his rural life, desert landscapes and WWII scenes. Blair has painted throughout western New York, Maine, Vermont and the American Southwest. His paintings are noted for their range of color, fluidity and movement. Blair is nationally known for his watercolors, but also worked in oils, pen and ink, sculpture, acrylics and drawing.”

On Robert Blair’s wife: “American artist Jeanette Blair was a student and later a teacher at the Art Institute of Buffalo. She has been active in the Western New York artistic community since the early 1940's. She and her husband Robert Noel Blair married in 1943 and were supportive and exhibiting members of several different artistic societies throughout the city. Jeanette and Robert Blair were friends and contemporaries of Charles Burchfield, and the three influenced each other’s work.

Who influenced who?