Olin Lansing Russum Jr., 79, potter and sculptor

October 17, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Olin Lansing Russum Jr., a Monkton potter and sculptor who was known for his tile and bas-relief murals, died Oct. 9 of pneumonia at Brightwood Nursing Center in Brooklandville. He was 79.

Mr. Russum and his wife, the former Jean Taylor Bosley, began creating a stream of artwork in 1951 in the red cedar barn they converted into a studio and home near the Gunpowder Falls.

He and Mrs. Russum, who operated a woodworking studio alongside her husband's ceramic studio, often collaborated until her death in 1986.

Besides creating artwork, they also grew food and landscaped their grounds with evergreens, including the rare Umbrella Pine from China.

Mr. Russum's architectural murals can be found throughout the Baltimore area in such places as the Hampton House Apartments, Jewish Community Center, Uptown Federal Building, City Spring Elementary School, Patterson High School, Maryland National Bank and Epiphany Episcopal Church.

His work ranged from functional pieces of all sizes to free-standing ceramic sculpture and bas-reliefs that measured 20 feet by 50 feet.

His work also is included in the permanent collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenze, Italy, Rochester Museum of Art in Rochester, N.Y., and the Lang Gallery of Claremont University in Claremont, Calif.

Mr. Russum, who was known as Russ, conducted the Baltimore Museum of Art ceramics workshop, and many of his students went on to establish the Potter's Guild and to gain national prominence in their own right.

Of working in clay, he explained in a 1967 interview with The Evening Sun: "It's a beautiful medium, really. It's very expressive, a very free medium."

Sydney C. Blumenthal and his wife met the Russums in the early 1950s after the Blumenthals had a home designed and built in Stevenson.

"For some reason or other, the place had the look of a Pan Am Airways waiting room until we heard about the Russums, from whom we bought several coffee and end tables," Mr. Blumenthal said. "They still occupy a prominent place in our home, including several examples of Olin's pottery."

Mr. Russum was born in Bangor, Maine, and reared in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he graduated from high school. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1940 from the University of Southern California at Santa Barbara and his master's in fine arts from Claremont University.

During World War II, he served with an Army Air Corps signal battalion in Europe and was discharged with the rank of captain.

He was recalled during the Korean Conflict and served with the 101st Signal Battalion in Korea. He was discharged with the rank of major. His decorations included the Bronze Star.

There were no services.

He is survived by his daughter, Bleigh Russum of Paris, France.

Pub Date: 10/17/98

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