Reforming Faith by Design: Frank Furness’ Architecture and Spiritual Pluralism Among Philadelphia’s Jews and Unitarians

Philadelphia never saw anything like it. The strange structure took shape between 1868 and 1871 on the southeast corner of North Broad and Mount Vernon streets, in the middle of a developing residential neighborhood for a newly rising upper middle class. With it came a rather alien addition to the city’s skyline: a boldly striped onion dome capping an octagonal Moorish-style minaret that flared...
read more

Editor’s Letter

The features in this edition focus on Pennsylvanians who strived for a more equitable, pluralistic America. The articles cover a period from the mid-19th century into the early 20th, a time when movements for civil rights were emerging and new barriers were being broken in several social and cultural realms. The story of Octavius V. Catto reflects a key moment in the history of the struggle for...
read more

To Form a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Murals in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber

At breakfast tables on Sunday morning, December 3, 1911, readers of The New York Times were confronted with a surprising headline running across the magazine section: “A WOMAN CHOSEN TO COMPLETE THE ABBEY PAINTINGS.” Four months earlier, the news that the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911) had passed away in London raised speculation about who would receive the remainder of his...
read more

Life of a Portrait: Laura Wheeler Waring’s Anna Washington Derry

Until recently, painter Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948) has been relegated to the sidelines in artist histories. A member of the African American elite, she specialized in portraits and figurative painting and did not share the hand-to-mouth experience of many of her fellow artists. Rather, she worked as an art instructor and choir director for nearly 40 years at the institution now known as...
read more

Editor’s Letter

Football, fine art, and festivals. Throughout the years, Pennsylvanians have received national acclaim in all three fields. Each has become a vital part of our shared heritage, engaging residents and representing the commonwealth’s rich and diverse culture. In this edition, you’ll find three outstanding features on prominent examples of these activities in the Keystone State. Football has been...
read more

Frank Furness by George E. Thomas

Frank Furness Architecture in the Age of the Great Machines by George E. Thomas University of Pennsylvania Press, 312 pp, cloth $59.95 The rehabilitation of Frank Furness, whose idiosyncratic Victorian buildings scandalized generations of Philadelphians, began in earnest with Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966). Venturi praised Furness for the exact same reason...
read more

After All: Charles Demuth, a Modernist in Lancaster

Charles Demuth was an artist of wide reputation, represented in some of the most eminent art museums in the country. It would take some time, however, for his work to be appreciated in his own hometown of Lancaster, where the majority of his most significant paintings were created. Many of his works featured Lancaster settings and architecture. His acclaimed masterpiece, My Egypt, depicted one...
read more

From the Anonymous Lady to the Peales and the Sullys: Philadelphia’s Professional Women Artists of the Early Republic

The Colonial and Revolutionary periods in Philadelphia saw little art production by women outside the home. Not only did the religious and social culture of Philadelphia demand that women make the home and children their primary focus, but also there were no formal schools for instruction in either the fine or applied arts. Apprenticeships with painters, printmakers or sculptors were usually...
read more

Artful Trails

In honor of the 50th Art of the State exhibition, open through September 10, 2017, at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, we’re exploring art at other historic sites and museums along PHMC’s Pennsylvania Trails of History. As visual storytellers, our sites employ a multidisciplinary approach to documenting and sharing Pennsylvania heritage. Artworks frequently play a role in the study...
read more

Joseph Plavcan’s Wild Rice

  A species of wild rice, Zizania aquatica, grows on the shores of Presque Isle, the hooked peninsula that juts off the coast of the city of Erie into the Great Lake of the same name. The plant is also the titular subject of this acrylic-on-board painting of Pennsylvania’s only surf beach by legendary Erie artist Joseph Plavcan (1908-81). Plavcan is the link in a succession of...
read more