Nelson-Atkins Mourns Loss of Henry Bloch
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art joins the Bloch family and Bloch Family Foundation in profound sadness with news of the death of Henry Wollman Bloch, who died peacefully surrounded by his family on April 23, 2019. He was 96 years old. The Nelson-Atkins was honored to be among the many organizations and civic efforts that benefitted from Mr. Bloch’s philanthropic leadership.
Mr. Bloch founded the Business Council at the Nelson-Atkins in 1985. It is the most successful Business Council of any art museum in the country.
“This is an enormous loss to the community and to the Nelson-Atkins,” said Richard C. Green, Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees. “Henry Bloch had an unfailing vision and enthusiasm that was borne of genuine gratitude. The Nelson-Atkins was truly fortunate to benefit from Henry’s leadership, guidance, and passion for the arts. It is now our responsibility to reflect his wonderful example as we move into the future.”
Born July 30, 1922, Henry Bloch was the second of three sons of a middle-class family. A visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist, he co-founded H&R Block Inc. in 1955 with his brother Richard. The new firm specialized in income tax return preparation. They named the company “Block” because their family name, “Bloch,” was often mispronounced and misspelled.
Bloch had a passion for the arts. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Nelson-Atkins from May 1, 2004 to April 30, 2007.
“This is a sad day. Henry has been a fundamental pillar of leadership for the Nelson-Atkins for so many years,” said Shirley Bush Helzberg, former Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees. “His steadfast support and keen eye for sound business practices will be sorely missed. And he was a true gentleman.”
In June 2007, the museum opened the internationally acclaimed Bloch Building expansion, named in honor of Marion and Henry Bloch. And in 2010, the Blochs announced that they would donate their expansive personal collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings to the museum, which includes works from artists such as Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas. The collection of 29 masterpieces was assembled by the Blochs over a period of more than 20 years with the guidance Marc F. Wilson, Director Emeritus of the Nelson-Atkins, and it was officially accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection in July 2015.
As part of accepting the Bloch Collection into the Nelson-Atkins collection, the museum began an $11.7 million renovation, funded by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation. The art was integrated with the museum’s European collection and the Bloch Galleries opened in March 2017. Since opening, the Bloch Galleries have become the most popular spot in the entire Nelson-Atkins.
There will be a small box on a bench in the Bloch Galleries at which the public is invited to jot down a remembrance about Henry Bloch. The museum will share these notes with the Bloch family.
Mr. Bloch is survived by four children: Robert L. Bloch, Thomas M. Bloch, Mrs. Mary Jo Brown, and Mrs. Elizabeth Uhlmann, all of Kansas City; 12 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren. His wife, Marion, died in 2013.
The public is invited to attend a memorial service in Atkins Auditorium on Monday, April 29, 2019, at 1:30 pm.
The service will be streamed on Facebook live.
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