Robert Blunk’s oil painting Rachel and the Angels, is a stunning combination of hard-edge abstraction and lyrical figuration. In Rachel and the Angels (1982) a faceless human figure sheathed in a pale pink shift kneels in the lower left-center of a stage-like abstract room with bright geometric blue walls and flat green floor. The figure kneels with her back towards to viewer, somewhat facing a gray circle suggestive of a rug. Any sense of a ceiling for this room is replaced by an open orange space in which float three blue-green ethereal figures. According to Blunk, the pink-clad figure represents a woman, Rachel, who was one of the artist’s wife’s homeless adult education students in Pittsburg, Kansas. Rachel was a simple person, who probably had been abused and was often misunderstood, living a lonely and unfulfilled life on the streets. The three spirits above “Rachel” represents that she was taken care of anyway. Blunk stated that, “It made me sad to think how, had she gotten the right help at the right time, she could have been all right.”
Blunk’s wife, Katherine, brought home a lot of her work and the story of Rachel intrigued the artist, just as it will undoubtedly continue to intrigue viewers today. The painting also speaks volumes about the relationship between Blunk and his wife, as undoubtedly the “angels” which float in the sky correspond to Katherine and her work with Rachel. Rachel and the Angels may be particularly appealing to researchers and students of psychology and education, or anyone interested in how the human spirit can triumph under the most severe adversities. This painting, gifted to the Spencer Museum by the artist’s daughter Rebecca is beautiful work that can be interacted with on several levels.