Since its founding in 1988, the Michener Art Museum has expanded its vision, facility, and programs as well as its permanent collection, which now comprises more than 3,500 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper. To commemorate its 30th anniversary, the Michener is presenting "30 Years: Art at the Michener, 1988-2018", a special exhibition from September 16, 2018 through January 6, 2019 that invites visitors to learn new stories about familiar works of art and discover objects from the Museum’s vault that have never before been on display. This online exhibit features a selection of works displayed in the exhibition augmented with works from the Michener's permanent collection. A selection of audio stops are also included that accompany the works in the exhibition.
Since the Michener opened its doors in 1988, the institution’s 30 year history is characterized by one constant: growth. Both its mission and collection have expanded to more fully tell the story of the Delaware Valley region’s cultural history. Stretching from one gallery to eight, evolving from an art center to an accredited Museum, and mounting exhibitions from Bucks County to locations far beyond, the Michener has grown in countless ways, all the while keeping community at its core.
Particularly when it comes to its permanent collection, this growth has been thoughtful and consistent. New paintings, photographs, prints, and sculptures have become part of the Museum’s permanent collection in every single year the Michener has been open.
The selection of works featured in this online exhibition are on display in the current exhibition at the Michener Art Museum, "30 Years: Art at the Michener". They are just some of the works that have helped to truly establish the Michener and fulfill the goals set out in the Museum’s mission. This exhibition is on view from September 16, 2018 through January 6, 2019.
The Michener is proud to serve our community as the steward for this exceptional collection of American art. We are especially honored to celebrate the Museum’s history and future with you: our visitors, members, neighbors, and friends.
We hope that this online exhibition will provide you with an opportunity to learn more about the Michener and its collection.
Born Fern Isabel Kuns in Illinois, Coppedge dreamed of being an artist since the age of thirteen, after being inspired by the dazzle of sunlight reflected on snow and sea, and by the marvelous creative possibilities she discovered while visiting her older sister's watercolor class. Her husband, Robert W. Coppedge, himself an amateur painter, encouraged her to pursue this ambition.
A landscape artist, Coppedge painted the villages and farms of Bucks County, often blanketed with snow, as well as harbor scenes from Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she spent her summers.
Coppedge worked directly from nature; like her colleague, Edward Redfield, she tied her canvas to a tree, during winter storms. Coppedge's early work, influenced by American impressionism, was marked by shimmering colors and attention to the effects of changing light upon a landscape. Later in her career, Coppedge moved towards post-impressionism, favoring a more fanciful use of color and two-dimensional, abstract style.
Fleeing the condescension of male artists, Fern I. Coppedge sought friendship, support, and a forum for her art in the company of her fellow female artists. Between 1922 and 1935, Coppedge exhibited her work with the Philadelphia Ten, a group of women artists who joined together in 1917 to promote their work in a male-dominated field.
The Philadelphia Ten exhibited together once a year, usually at the Art Club of Philadelphia, and sent exhibitions to women's clubs across Pennsylvania. Coppedge was arguably not just one of the most famous of this female group, but a vital force in the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement.
Many of the women who were part of the Philadelphia Ten studied together at the School of Design for Women, today known as Moore College of Art and Design.
Artists are inspired to create their work for many different reasons. One thing that can be said for certain is that they create their art based on what they know and what they connect to: whether it’s a person, idea or an object. Artists also paint what they love. This portrait is just one example of many that Ben Solowey created featuring his wife, Rae, who was the love of his life from the moment he met her and his forever muse.
On April 5, 1930, Rae was in New York City and out to dinner with a family friend. Her friend suggested that they stop in to see his artist friend, Ben Solowey. When they rang the doorbell, Ben had just completed a still life painting called Carnations and Lilies. Rae wasn’t there very long when Ben asked Rae was she was doing the next evening. Rae stated she was busy, but Ben persisted, and the two made a date for following night.
That evening, Ben proposed. He stated that he would have proposed the first time they met, but he didn’t think it was appropriate since she was with another man. It took Rae a week to give Ben her answer. They initially were going to get married right away, but due to the sudden passing of Ben’s brother, they got married on June 8, 1930.
This portrait was completed at Ben Solowey’s studio in Greenwich Village. Solowey moved to New York City in 1928 and soon became a highly successful theater portrait artist, commissioned by the New York Times, The Herald Tribune, and the Post newspapers. His portraits included noted Broadway stars like Ethel Merman, Katherine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier.
As her husband’s model throughout his artistic career, Rae was noted to take poses that she felt would be interesting to look at. Here, Rae is in a relaxed, reflective moment. She is in an elegant dark green flowing dress which has just a little bit of sparkle along her neck and shoulders. Her face is gently resting on her right hand with the other hand placed gently on her left thigh.
Behind her and also on the left, are parts of landscape paintings by Solowey. Solowey often included his other works in his paintings, and this portrait of Rae can be found in several of his other works.
Often called the dean of the New Hope art colony, William Langson Lathrop helped to established this community of artists soon after he moved into Phillips Mill in 1899. His home and studio quickly emerged as the intellectual and spiritual center of the art colony, as he ferried students to his studio and, with his wife Annie, hosted weekly teas for his colleagues.
A dedicated teacher, Lathrop mentored several members of the New Hope school's first and second generations. Primarily a tonalist, Lathrop created poetic and evocative paintings in muted shades, often of earth browns and blue-grays. Most often he painted simplified rustic landscapes, in oils or occasionally in watercolors.
Although Lathrop often worked en plein air, in the manner of many Pennsylvania impressionists, he deemed it important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing also upon memory. In his later years, Lathrop developed a more impressionistic style, expanding the colors in his palette.
Portraits are created to not only provide a picture of their subjects, but also to tell us about them. The painter of this portrait uses a variety of visual clues and props to tell us more about his sitter.
Looking closely, we notice the sitter holding a palette and three brushes in his left hand and another brush in his right. Behind him we see an open book, and to his right we see evidence of a painting in progress.
He is well-dressed in mid-19th century style clothing with a set of spectacles sitting atop of his head. His receding hairline and the wrinkles on his face, indicate that he is an older person. Our eyes are drawn to the brightest area on his face, which is his forehead.
All of these details reveal information about the sitter, who happens to be Edward Hicks, one of America’s most important primitive painters of the 19th century.
Thomas Hicks created this portrait, along with two others, of his cousin Edward, the earliest of which he painted around 1836 at the age of 13. Thomas had begun earlier that year to apprentice with his cousin in his sign painting shop in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The second version was created in 1839, and this third version was painted after Edward Hicks passed away, between the years 1850 and 1852.
Although he painted scenes of everyday life, Thomas Hicks achieved much recognition as a portrait painter. He received academic training in prestigious art schools along with studying in Paris with artist Thomas Couture. He painted well known public figures including the first oil portrait of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, President George Washington and poet Charles Dickens
A devout Quaker minister and sign painter born in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Edward Hicks is best known for painting more than 60 versions of his famous work, "The Peaceable Kingdom", an example of which can be found in this portrait. As a young boy, Edward Hicks became an apprentice to a carriage maker and decorated coaches, signs, furniture, and household objects. As an adult, he spent time preaching to share the knowledge and insights of his Quaker faith with others. He didn’t make much money preaching, so he began painting in order to earn “an honest living.”
The book behind Edward in his portrait is most likely a Bible to further reference this important aspect of Edward’s life. Edward’s dress in somewhat formal attire is likely to indicate his status, rather than a realistic view of how he dressed while painting at his easel. The use of a strong light on Edward’s face most likely symbolizes the Quaker belief of each person having an “inner light” in their soul, an element of God’s spirit.
For Edward Hicks, painting was a way to find spiritual peace and to share that peace with his viewers. He enjoyed painting scenes from the Bible, stories from history, and views of Bucks County farm life. He painted historical events including George Washington crossing the Delaware River, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Quaker William Penn signing a treaty with the Native Americans.
A self-taught artist, Edward used his Peaceable Kingdom paintings to teach a story from the Book of Isaiah that spoke about a future world where animals and people lived together peacefully.
John Folinsbee came to New Hope in 1916 at the suggestion of tonalist painter Birge Harrison. He and his wife, Ruth, helped to found the Phillips Mill Community Association in 1929. Primarily known as a landscape painter, he also did portraits. His early impressionist landscapes employ light colors. Following a 1926 trip to France, Folinsbee began to use darker, brooding colors, and his work became more expressionist in approach. Known for his paintings of shad fish along the Delaware River in Lambertville, the painter also depicted the factories around his home and the Maine seacoast.
At the age of 14, Folinsbee was stricken by polio while swimming and very shortly thereafter, his older brother was killed in a diving accident. These two tragic events deeply influenced Folinsbee's way of depicting bodies of water. In his paintings, the water has a deep, moving and powerful quality.
Known for his paintings of shad fish along the Delaware River in Lambertville, the painter also depicted the towns, shorelines, factories and countryside around his home in Bucks County and the Maine seacoast.
This work by Rob Evans draws us into a world that is deeply personal and mysterious. Notice the familiar elements the artist has included in his composition– the large moth on the lower right side of the wall, the grandfather clock, and a doorway offering a view of the Susquehanna River in the evening. The shimmer of the water, the orangey glow of the sky, and the twinkle of the lights in the distance, give a sense of life outside this quiet interior space. Yet, these familiar elements combined in this setting convey a dreamlike world, one which invites a sense of desire to learn more about its meaning.
As Rob Evans often does, he included personal objects in this work that carry a deeper meaning. For him, the elements such as the clock, the Luna moth, the jet trail in the sky all symbolize the idea of impermanence and the ephemeral. Evans has described the clock as a continual reminder of the onward flow of time and how this unavoidably moves us forward to change and metamorphosis, life and death. Evans carefully and thoughtfully composes his imagery, working by editing out components as needed, to remain true to his original vision.
Not only are the elements in Evans’ work symbolic, they are distinct memories of Evans’ childhood that resonate strongly within him to this day. The interior space shown in this work is of a room in his maternal grandparents’ home, Roundtop, where he spent summers as a child. Evans would stay up late to collect large silk moths fluttering on the porch lights. The chimes from the clock would ring each quarter hour, clearly echoing in his memories years later. Evans has set this scene just before quarter past midnight; one can anticipate that this silent space will soon be awakened by the loud sounds of this solitary clock.
Memories and metaphors combined with connections to the natural world continue to be an inspiration for Evans. He provides compelling and enigmatic imagery, which allows viewers to be pulled into another world, to explore further, to see what other discoveries we can make.
As with many of Evans’ other works, Flight Pattern has changed over time. In 2012, Evans created a second version of the work, much larger than the original version.
A traditional portrait is seen with the subject looking at the viewer. Here we have something different – Nelson Shanks has his subject, a young yoga teacher around 27 or 28 years old facing away from us. This allows the viewer to focus on her form – the shape of the young woman’s back and her head framed with her short pigtails. Our eyes move along her shoulders and neck, giving the painting a beauty and grace. Her soft flesh tones are augmented with the magenta background. The woman’s head is ever so slightly tilted down to the right – is she listening to us, or perhaps to the artist as he speaks to her as she poses for the portrait?
Bucks County painter Nelson Shanks has a long-established reputation as one of the foremost advocates and practitioners of classicist and realist painting. His work typically includes portraits of well-known figures, as well as still lifes, infused with allegorical and symbolic meanings. Strongly influenced by works from the Italian Renaissance and the Baroque period, Shanks painted primarily in oil on canvas or panel. Shanks is very well known for portraits of public figures such as Princess Diana, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, President Bill Clinton, mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, and Pope John Paul II.
Aaron Gorson is best known for his depictions of industrial scenes in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and his views of the mills along Pittsburgh’s rivers are the most memorable. A native of Lithuania, Gorson moved to Philadelphia in 1888 and later studied with Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Gorson moved to Pittsburgh in 1903 and began painting the region’s industrial landscapes at this time. He was drawn to dramatic contrasts between light and dark, and once remarked that he was enthralled by “the way in which the muddy river water captures the gleam of the dying light and becomes transformed into running gold.”
Edward Redfield believed in painting what he saw. Just like a newspaper photograph, this painting tells the story about an actual event that occurred on July 22, 1923 when lightning struck Center Bridge in New Hope, Pennsylvania and the wooden bridge caught fire.
Look closer at this painting. Using your senses, imagine you were coming home late at night and came upon this scene. What would you hear? What would you smell?
As the story goes, Redfield was coming home when he noticed the flames in the distance, thinking it might be his own home. When he arrived at the scene, he saw friend and fellow Bucks County artist, William Lathrop. Lathrop remarked to Redfield that it was a pity that this fire couldn’t be painted. With much excitement, Redfield immediately jotted down some sketches on an envelope. Upon returning home, Redfield created a smaller painting of the fire, and on July 24th, made this larger version, which was his favorite.
Not only is this painting important that it documents a real-life event, but Redfield used a different process in creating this painting that differed from his usual technique. Redfield typically worked outdoors, or “en plein air”. This meant that he would tie his canvases to a tree and painted in all types of weather, even in the harshest of conditions. For this painting instead, he drew a sketch of this event, and then created the painting in his studio.
This landscape is one of many that William Langson Lathrop painted during his travels on his sailboat that he had constructed in the late 1920s called the Widge. Here, he has captured a view of a moor in Chilmark, Massachusetts located on Martha’s Vineyard. Like other Pennsylvania impressionists, Lathrop expressed his fascination with the ocean in painting, creating many marine landscapes. Lathrop also sailed to other locations including the Jersey Shore and Long Island Sound.
Lathrop’s early landscapes used more muted shades, like earth-browns and blue-grays, but his later works were more impressionistic and used an expanded palette. Lathrop often worked en plein air, in the manner of many of his colleagues, but he also believed it was important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing upon memory.
Lathrop tragically died when is boat sank in a hurricane off Long Island in 1938. After his death, a painting dated September 21, 1938 was discovered in the Widge’s cabin, proving that until his poignant final moments, Lathrop drew inspiration from the sea.
When it comes to Marguerite and the late H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, it is hard to overstate how transformative their involvement has been for the Michener Art Museum. Known to the Delaware Valley cultural community as committed collectors and generous philanthropists, the pair presented the Michener with 59 Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and a critical endowment gift in 1999.
The Lenfests’ gift armed the Michener’s commitment to representing the region’s important history of Impressionism and Modernism, as well as cemented the institution as a center for scholarship in these areas. In honor of their contribution to the Michener’s growth, the entirety of the Lenfest gift has been on display throughout 2018 in the Museum’s Byers and Beans galleries as well as in the Martin Wing.
Edward Redfield, a major figure of the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement and a resident of New Hope, was best known for his winter landscapes and did not start exploring spring scenes until slightly later in his career. No matter the season, Redfield was committed to painting outside, on-site.
Redfield often completed an entire painting in one session, enabling him to capture realistic effects of light and color. Redfield felt these practices helped him achieve an authentic rendering of the landscape and through his approach, the viewer is transported to a familiar place at a specific time of day.
A friend of William Lathrop, Morgan Colt rented the former pig barn on the painter's property at Phillips Mill. Colt redesigned and added to the building to make a home and studio. He designed hand-crafted wood and iron furniture in a small rustic building which he called The Gothic Shop. Colt was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement in which industrial manufacturing was rejected in favor of craftsmanship, especially medieval handicrafts.
At the same time, Colt also practiced landscape painting. Along with Lathrop, Charles Rosen, Robert Spencer, Rae Sloan Bredin, Daniel Garber, they founded the New Hope Group of Painters for "mutual support and convenience." The Group exhibited together from 1916 and 1926. Colt produced relatively few paintings and today his work can be difficult to find.
Robert Spencer gazed at rustic Bucks County with a city man's eye, seeking out laborers and factories to enliven his landscapes. Spencer cultivated his interest in urban subjects through his association with New York-based painters such as Robert Henri. He developed his style, however, under the tutelage of the Pennsylvania impressionists Daniel Garber and William L. Lathrop.
Compared with Garber, Spencer favored a more somber tone and bolder patterning. He often employed ranges of warm and cold grays, while blending violets, blues, and reds to create subtle harmonies of color.
Like Garber, Spencer was interested in figurative painting, although typically the people he depicted were anonymous members of a crowd rather than familiar individuals. Toward the end of his life, Spencer also experimented with a looser, more spontaneous style somewhat akin to modernist ideas.
During Charles Rosen's residence in New Hope, Rosen enjoyed close relationships with Pennsylvania Impressionist artists, Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield, and became known for his large, vigorously painted Pennsylvania snow scenes. Rosen also enjoyed close friendships with fellow artists William Lathrop and John Folinsbee.
By 1916, Rosen had achieved his mature impressionist style, which often combines a sense of the decorative patterning found in nature, as well as its more dynamic, vigorous aspects.
From 1919 until 1921, when the artist began working in a more modern style, he served as an instructor and later director of the Art Students League summer school in Woodstock, New York. He moved permanently to Woodstock in 1920, and became closely associated with the Woodstock Artists Colony. He adopted a cubist-realist style, which would characterize his work until his death in 1950.
As the title indicates, this painting by Walter Baum depicts a section of Easton south of the Lehigh River. Originally inhabited by the Lenape Indians, the area was founded as Easton in 1752, and was an important military center during the Revolutionary War.
During the 19th century, the city became a major center for the steel and coal industry largely due to the canal and railroad systems that were flourishing during that time period. The intersection of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers in Easton also enabled commerce to expand even more during the industrial revolution.
This gritty industrial scene was typical of Baum’s work during the 1940s and 1950s, where he moved from depicting the beautiful rural landscapes of the region to exploring more urban areas, his favorite of which was the town of Manayunk, a suburb of Philadelphia. Baum was known to return to the same area more than once to paint, and Easton was one such location which he revisited.
Fred Wagner was one of the early impressionist painters of the Bucks County area, devoting much of his work to the landscapes of Bucks County and Chester County. Wagner won considerable renown for his "Pennsylvania Railroad Pictures" including the "Broad Street Station" (at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) and "30th Street Station".
In addition to oils Wagner painted smaller watercolors and pastels, many of them being sketches for larger oils. These were described as reflecting a "dainty and poetic feeling...capturing nature unawares...in her more elusive moods."
Following his years of study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins, Wagner went to San Antonio to paint portraits in 1886. He also traveled to Los Angeles to do portraiture. He returned to Philadelphia in 1902, joining the art staff of the old Philadelphia Press, and during the 1920s teaching summer school for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at his own school.
Along with Daniel Garber, Wagner exhibited at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 and the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926.
In the 1930s, a group of modernist artists in Bucks County including Charles Ramsey, Louis Stone, and Charles Evans, formed The Cooperative Painting Project. Experimenting with expressive color, abstract forms, and modern concepts of creative design, this experimental group worked together for two years. They were inspired by the improvisational and collaborative style of jazz music.
They worked together taking turns to produce single works of non-objective art, a type of abstract art that is on occasion geometric and aims to convey a sense of simplicity, and does not represent anything realistic nor identifiable found in the natural world.
Each composition they created together was agreed upon at every stage of its development. Occasionally the group was joined by writer Stanley Kunitz and painter Lloyd Ney. The signature of the work changed based on who collaborated to create it – this work included Ramsey, Stone and Evans.
Another section of the exhibition at the Michener features a collection donated by John Horton. Long time visitors to the Michener may remember a 1994 exhibition titled, "A Collector’s Eye: Depression Era Paintings from the Collection of John Horton." The exhibit examined a private collection uniquely concerned with issues of political and social content via social realist and modernist painters of the 1930s-1940s.
The following paintings in this online exhibition represent a selection of these works from this collection.
Following his death in 2005, John Horton bequeathed a portion of his collection to the Michener, and together these works have helped to more completely tell the story not only of the Delaware Valley during the depression years, but also of the wider American scene during this pivotal period.
Eugene Higgins rose from humble beginnings to become a successful painter and printmaker in the first half of the 20th century. Growing up in a working class family in the Midwest, Higgins was exposed to the harsh realities of labor from an early age. This painting is one example of his admiration for the American worker and his deep personal connection to hard physical labor.
These ideas also reflect the influence on his work of French Realism, a 19th century movement that portrayed ordinary people, specifically the working class, as the subjects of high art. Realist artists sought to provide an honest depiction of modern everyday rural life and rebelled against the traditional academic ideals of grand historical and allegorical subject matter. They sought to make art accessible to everyone.
Max Weber was born in 1881 in Bialystok, Russia (now Poland) which was at the time a center for textile production. One of his earliest memories was of his grandfather mixing colorful fabric dyes together which is where he came to love bold colors and forms. At the age of ten, his family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York. Seven years later he went on to study at Pratt Institute. It is there that he met his mentor Arthur Wesley Dow. As a result of Dow’s immersion into the world of the post-impressionists, he passed his love affair for flat masses of color and vibrant lines onto Weber.
After graduating from Pratt, Weber went on to teach in Virginia and Minnesota. In 1905 he was able to afford a three year trip to Paris. During which he met, befriended, and studied with Henri Rousseau as well as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Weber came to be a regular at Gertrude Stein’s salon. He also had the opportunity to see a major Cezanne Exhibit and meet the renown poet Guillaume Apollinaire. This brief period of his life had a profound effect on his work which came to have several fauvist and cubist elements.
Weber returned to New York City in 1909 and became part of the avant-garde circle of artists where he was extremely influential in introducing Cubism to America. In 1910, he exhibited his work in Alfred Stieglitz's 291 gallery, and the following year had his first solo exhibition there. After the relationship between Weber and Stieglitz dissolved, in 1913, his work became part of a significant exhibition at the Newark Museum, New Jersey.
Post 1917, Weber's work became more representational due to the influence of fauvism and German expressionism. In an effort to return to his roots, he also began to paint works containing several instances of Jewish subject matter. Weber began supporting himself through teaching and during the 1920s he went on to teach at the Art Students League of New York. In 1930, the Museum of Modern Art held an retrospective exhibit on Weber where he was praised for having paved the way for Modern Art in America.
This online exhibition features a selection work from the exhibition, "30 Years: Art at the Michener, 1988-2018" on view from September 16, 2018 - January 6, 2019, along with works from the Michener's permanent collection.
The audio featured with some of the works are a sampling of the audio tour available with the exhibition through www.michenerartmuseum.oncell.com.
For more information, visit: www.MichenerArtMuseum.org.