Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.


Frederick Parrish (1870-1962) – who later adopted the family name Maxfield as a middle and then professional name – was born into Philadelphia’s Quaker community and reared in a culturally privileged environment. From his father Stephen, an acclaimed etcher and landscape painter, he inherited his talent for natural observation and an understanding of the business of art. (The senior Par­rish ran a stationery shop until 1877, when he devoted himself full-time to his art.) Parrish’s mother, Elizabeth Bancroft, whose family the artist credited for his lifelong interest in machinery, also instilled in him a love of music.

From 1884 to 1886, Maxfield Parrish traveled with his parents throughout Europe (he had first visited the Continent at the age of seven), absorbing everything from architecture and music to machinery and nature with unbridled enthusiasm. Two years after he returned from his grand tour, he reentered the Quaker educational system – he had attended one year of Swarthmore College’s preparatory school before his European adventure – by enrolling in Haverford College. Parrish decided to pursue the visual arts rather than architecture and left Haverford after his junior year. In December 1891, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA).

Parrish studied at PAFA until 1894, during which time he participated in student projects and exhibitions and for which he garnered early critical attention in the Philadelphia press. He briefly attended the illustration classes of Howard Pyle (1853-1911) at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (now Drexel University), where he met painting instructor Lydia Austin (1872-1953), whom he married in 1895. After leaving PAFA and Pyle’s tute­lage, he taught interior and mural decoration at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art (since incorporated into the University of the Arts) from 1894 to 1896. He maintained a studio at the school until 1898, when he established permanent residence at the celebrated artists’ colony of Cornish, New Hampshire.

Maxfield Parrish’s commercial success was early and auspicious. In 1894, he received a commission to decorate the new quarters of the Mask and Wig Club, the University of Pennsylvania’s drama society. The centerpiece of his fairy-tale designs was the Old King Cole mural for the club’s grill room. The success of the mural – and its graphic study shown the previous year in a special architectural design exhibition at the Academy – gained Parrish a reputation for whimsy and inventiveness, and led to his first cover for a national magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. During the following two decades his illustrations appeared in many magazines, among them Scribner’s, Collier’s, Century, Life, and the Ladies Home Journal. Acclaimed book illustrations included L. Frank Baum’s Mother Goose in Prose (1897), Kenneth Grahame’s Dream Days (1902), Edith Whar­ton’s Italian Villas and their Gar­dens (1904), and a children’s collection of the Arabian Nights tales (1909). He continued to create murals and paintings for clubhouses, hotels, office buildings, theaters, and residences throughout the country.

In the twenties, Parrish became well known for his series of advertisements, an art form in which he had excelled since his Philadelphia years. His most popular advertisements were commissioned by the D.M. Ferry Seed Company and General Electric’s Edison Mazda Lamps Division. Many of his works executed originally for books, magazines, and murals were reproduced as “art prints,” ensuring his reputation as one of the most widely known American artists.

During the last thirty years of his life, Parrish painted landscapes, many on commission for Brown and Bigelow, a calendar and greeting card publishing company, with which he was associated from 1936 to 1963. Largely because of this late commercial work, his critical reputation waned in the 1940s and 1950s and he became known, derisively, as a “popular” rather than “fine” artist. A revival of interest in Parrish’s work coincided in the sixties with the advent of Pop Art, an interest that continues unabated today. An exhibit mounted in 1964 at Bennington College in Ben­nington, Vermont, “Maxfield Parrish, A Second Look,” marks for the art world the “rediscovery” of his work. Two years later the artist died at “The Oaks,” the house he built in 1898 in Cornish, New Hampshire.

The first-ever critical retrospective of Parrish, one of the most beloved artists of this century, has just opened its national tour at, most fittingly, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. “Maxfield Par­rish, 1870-1966,” presents an inclusive view of the artist’s achievements within the context of American culture at large, examining both his historical importance and his contemporary influence. The exhibition, featuring nearly two hundred paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, artifacts, objects, and ephemera, surveys the distinctive phases of his prolific seventy-year career. The exhibition addresses the late 1890s and early 1900s, the so-called Golden Age of Illustration, when the artist developed his appreciation of popular art forms; the 1920s, a decade of artistic experimentation during which Parrish reached the pinnacle of fame and fortune with his fantastical images of exotic and erotic innocence; the 1930s and 1940s, when his exclusive interest in the landscape revealed a broader nationalistic spirit and obsession with ” American” identity; the 1960s, the decade of Pop Art and a romantic counterculture that witnessed the revival of the artist’s reputation; and the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the market for Parrish originals and reproductions is ever-growing, raising questions about the resonance of his art for postmodern culture.

“Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966,” continues through Saturday, September 25 [1999].

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is open daily. There is an admission charge.

For more information, write: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; telephone (215) 972-7600; or visit the Pennsyl­vania Academy of the Fine Arts website.


Canal Age Adventure

In June 1886, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), a celebrated jeweler and glass designer (and son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder, in 1837, of Tiffany & Co.), took his fiancée, Louise Knox, daughter of James H.M. Knox, president of Lafayette College, Easton, and an entourage of New York socialites on an excursion on Penn­sylvania’s Delaware and Lehigh Canals. During their trip from Bristol, in Bucks County, to Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thor­pe), in Carbon County, aboard the Molly­-Polly-Chunker, the holiday revelers compiled a log that offers insights into the ways of life of the Victorian era elite and Pennsylvania canal life.

Using the logbook as source material, the National Canal Museum has just opened a fascinating new exhibit entitled “The Perilous and Thrilling Adventures of the Molly-Polly-Chunker.” The exhibit re­creates a spot along the canal during the summer of 1886, a place where both the rich and the poor come together to tell their stories in words and pictures and with objects and site-specific environments. The museum has transformed gallery space to a place on the canal where the affluent pleasure-seekers tarried to take photographs of the lock-keeper feeding his goats in a tiny stable-yard garden, his wife, who does their laundry, and their eight children. Docked near the lock is a re-created section of the Molly-Polly-Chun­ker, a gravel scow rebuilt by Tiffany.

The open scow, a large, rectangular flat-bottomed boat used to transport freight, was outfitted with a roof and promenade deck and divided into six rooms, including a kitchen, saloon, dining room, and three sleeping chambers. The boat was refurbished with black and yellow striped awnings, Oriental rugs, and Japanese lanterns. Fresh flowers, books, maps, photography equipment, and the bric-a-brac of everyday Victorian era life cluttered virtually every surface.

Today, museum visitors can experience the era during which America’s upper class spent freely on luxury and the quest for novelty. Costumed interpreters welcome guests aboard the Molly-Polly-Chun­ker, showing them into the parlor, which has been decorated in the height of fashionable Victorian period splendor. Guests may participate in a period-style high tea, play parlor games of the day, peruse vintage photographs, or discuss their travels and the proletariat they meet along the way. Much like the women of the original 1886 party, visitors can gather wildflowers and make arrangements to decorate the boat. Visitors can learn how to make pressed flowers and become familiar with summertime activities, based on nineteenth-century publications such as Godey’s Ladies Book and Ladies Home Jour­nal. They can also join the cook and butler in the Molly-Polly-Chunker‘s kitchen as they see to the needs of Tiffany and his guests.

A stark contrast to Tiffany’s floating palace was a one-room locktender’s house, with its bare floor, and sparsely furnished with a wooden cradle, cupboard, rocking chair, two common chairs, a stove, and a table purchased before the family increased to ten. The family kept goats in a small stable yard and planted a tiny garden with beans.

In the museum’s re-creation of the lock-keeper’s house, visitors can examine a cupboard, which is filled with the necessities used by canal families for chores such as laundering, soap-making, and ironing. They can also pose for photographs, recalling the pleasure of delighted canal folk who enjoyed having their photograph taken by Tiffany. Also included in the exhibit is a developing tent, in which stereopticons, zeotropes, and magic lanterns will be demonstrated and discussed.

A gallery guide, mimicking the form and style of a nineteenth-century newspaper, the Molly-Polly-Chunker Gazette extends the visitor experience. Targeting families with children ranging in age from six to twelve, the guide includes a succinct overview of the exhibit, and period recipes, games, and activities, which can be used at home. Visitors are also encouraged to sign the boat’s guest book, as well as respond to the exhibition in words and pictures.

“The Perilous and Thrilling Adventures of the Molly-Polly-Chunker” will continue through Monday, January 3, 2000.

Additional information is available by writing: National Canal Museum, Two Rivers Landing, 30 Centre Sq., Easton, PA 18042-7743; or by telephoning (610) 559- 6613. There is a charge for admission.


The Wright Stuff

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) and Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann (1885-1955) shared a belief in the power of “good design” to change the lives of those it touched. Their mutual commitment to good design spawned one of the most famous examples of twentieth-century architecture: Fallingwater in Mill Run, Fayette County. Architectural historians contend that the house is “Wright’s most imaginative solution for a residential commission” and “is an icon that we associate immediately with the Frank Lloyd Wright canon.”

Edgar J. Kaufmann Jr. was instrumental in his father’s commissioning the architect to design the family’s summer house hugging the rocky cliffs above Bear Run in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Appalachians. The younger Kaufmann, twenty-five-year-old apprentice to Wright, introduced the great architect and the successful retailer in 1934. When Wright and Kaufmann met, the rapport was immediate. Wright received the commission for Fallingwater in 1935, when he was sixty-eight years old. He had established his practice in 1892 and by 1935 had designed hundreds of buildings and garnered an international reputation. By the 1920s, however, his career was in a decline; the changing face of architecture, coupled with a difficult and publicized divorce, brought him little work. He had written his autobiography and devoted much of his time to the Tal­iesin Fellowship, a school he had founded in Wisconsin.

Work on Fallingwater began in 1936 and, upon its completion the following year, became instantly famous. The house appeared on the cover of Time and was the subject of a show mounted by the Museum of Modern Art. Its fame increased, and fifty years later Paul Goldberger, New York Times architecture critic, wrote that Falling­water “is a house that summed up the 20th century and then thrust it forward still further. Within this remarkable build­ing Frank Lloyd Wright recapitulated themes that had preoccupied him since his career began a half century earlier, but he did not reproduce them literally. Instead, he cast his net wider, integrating European modernism and his own love of nature and structural daring, and pulled it all together into a brilliantly resolved totality. Fallingwater is Wright’s greatest essay in horizontal space; it is his most powerful piece of structural drama; it is his most sublime integration of man and nature.”

Wright could not have enjoyed a more receptive client. Edgar Kaufmann and his family loved the secluded glen and the cascading Bear Run, remembered by Edgar Kaufmann Jr. as “spouting nature’s endless energy and grace.” Kaufmann and Wright both revered nature, and Fallingwater is the product of their relationship.

The Kaufmanns enjoyed their country place for little more than a quarter century. In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave Falling­water to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy because he believed the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization was “devoted to the salutary and encompassing values of human life in touch with nature.” More than one hundred and thirty thousand visitors tour Fallingwater each year.

In tribute to Kaufmann’s vision and Wright’s genius, the Carnegie Museum of Art has recently opened an exhibit entitled “Merchant Prince and Master Builder: Edgar J. Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright” at its Heinz Architectural Center. After Wright completed Fallingwater, Kaufmann, his wife Lillian, and son Edgar J. Kaufmann Jr., commissioned him to design eleven more projects. The exhibition surveys these projects with original drawings, many of which have never been publicly shown before. Drawings range from preliminary sketches and annotated construction details to presentation sheets. “Merchant Prince and Master Builder” highlights Fallingwater because it is the most famous product of this relationship. Special tours that include both the house and the exhibit are being offered.

“Merchant Prince and Master Builder: Edgar J. Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright” continues through Sunday, October [1999].

For more details about the exhibit, write: Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213; or telephone (412) 622-3131.

Fallingwater, which has recently opened for the summer season, offers tours of the landmark Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. In addition to touring the house and grounds, visitors may walk through the Bear Run Nature Reserve, where twenty miles of trails and paths wind through its five thousand acres. Fallingwater, the centerpiece of the Bear Run Nature Reserve, is administered by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. It is located midway between the villages of Mill Run and Ohiopyle on state route 381. Driving time from Pittsburgh is approximately one and a half hours.

Since its inception in 1932, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which has protected more than two hundred thousand acres of natural lands in Pennsylvania, is the Commonwealth’s largest conservation organization. It currently safeguards properties in sixteen counties in western Pennsylvania. To obtain more information, write: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, 209 Fourth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222; or telephone (412) 288-2777.