Lucienne Bloch

From Composer in Nature’s University:
Living with father was like living on top of a volcano. We were a close-knit family, but there
were periods of quiet and periods of explosion, and every tremor affected us. To mention only the quiet moments would be to tell only half the story. We lived in apartments and
rental houses from the time I was born to the last twenty years of his life, when he finally found a home in Agate Beach, Oregon. Though we moved from place to place, the Bloch atmosphere was always there. Home was the sound of the music he composed played on the ever-present piano, the aroma of his pipe, the living room’s shelves of precious books, the life-size crucifix and the ever-present cat, Zizi. … His Pastorale mood is the memory of him I cherish most. We took long hikes with “le Papa” from the time we were able to walk. With his knapsack of fruit and Swiss chocolate, his camera slung over his shoulder, he would lead us into the country. He taught us all about mushrooms. We picked berries, climbed mountains. Enjoyment of nature was part of our lives, not only in Europe, but later in America – even in New York, when we went to Central Park every day before we knew
enough English to go to school.
– Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff, April 1980

Lucienne Bloch was born in 1909 in Geneva Switzerland, and came to America with her family in 1917. She was the youngest child of internationally famous composer and photographer Ernest Bloch.

A multi-talented artist, Lucienne attended the Ecole National et Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris at 14, apprenticing with sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and painter Andre Lhote. Her close friend Benjamino Bufano also influenced her sculpture. In 1929, she pioneered the design of glass sculpture for the Royal Leerdam Glass Factory in Holland. When Frank Lloyd Wright saw her glass works and spoke with her in New York, he invited her to teach at his architectural school, Taliesin East.

But Lucienne had just met and began her apprenticeship with Diego Rivera on his frescoes in New York and Detroit. She formed a close friendship with Diego’s wife Frida Kahlo, and they became each others’ companion and confidant. In 1932 she accompanied Frida to Mexico when her mother became ill. She was also with Frida in Detroit when she had her miscarriage; Lucienne tried to cheer her up, in her usual way, by comparing their ails to the size of the sun, or the solar system.

A prolific photographer, Lucienne contributed many photographs of Rivera and Kahlo to biographical works about them. She took the only existing photographs of Rivera’s (controversially) destroyed mural at Rockefeller Center Plaza in New York City.

Lucienne married one of Rivera’s chief plasterers, Stephen Pope Dimitroff. Together they created Fresco murals all over the United States. From 1935 to 1939, she was employed by the WPA/FAP (Works Progress Administration/Federal Arts Project). She also worked free-lance as a photographer for Life Magazine, recording the desperate conditions of autoworkers during the labor strikes and protests that occurred throughout the U.S. during the formation of the automobile worker unions.

Bloch mastered all types of media; photography, fresco, woodblock cuts, lithographs, mosaics, egg tempera, watercolor, wood and glass sculpture, terra cotta, portraits in ink, gesso, and oil. She also illustrated numerous children’s books. Lucienne created nearly 50 murals across the United States for religious institutions, schools, hospitals, and businesses. She worked hand in hand, side by side with her husband of nearly 65 years on all of these projects.

Lucienne Bloch passed away on March 13, 1999, on her small farm in Northern California. Her granddaughter, Lucienne Allen, is finishing the autobiography they had been working on together for nearly 10 years. Lucienne Bloch was an inspiration to many artists in her lifetime and her artwork and photography continues to inspire everyday.

A more detailed and comprehensive look at the life of Lucienne Bloch can be found on her website.