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.

The Circle is Unbroken

“Jane Piper and Her Circle: Three Gen­erations of Painters in Philadelphia” will open at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, on Saturday November 4 [2000]. Featuring more than one hundred and twenty-five paintings and works on paper, the exhibition expands a traveling retrospective of works by the Philadelphia painter and teacher Jane Piper (1916-1991). The exhibit at The State Museum has been enlarged to include additional works by Piper and her teachers, colleagues, and students. It is the first exhibition to examine Piper’s development as a painter alongside key works by artists who influenced her, as well as with those by younger artists whose artistic visions she influenced (see “The World of Jane Piper” by Bill Scott in the fall 2000 issue).

Featured in the exhibition are forty-five pieces drawn from the collections of The State Museum, including twenty-two etch­ings and drypoints by Piper’s mentor, the Philadelphia modernist painter Arthur B. Carles (1882-1952). Carles’s paintings – among the boldest in the famous Armory Show of 1913 – placed him among the leading American modernists. Carles taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1917 until 1925, when he was dismissed for being outspoken and flaunting convention. As an artist, he
was endlessly experimental and far ahead of his time.

Following the deaths of Piper and her husband, sociologist, professor, and author E. Digby Baltzell (1915-1996), longtime friends and patrons of Piper, Philadelphia art collectors Perry and June Otten­berg, gave this suite of prints in their memory to the museum. The prints are supplemented by eight oil paintings and two works on paper by Carles borrowed from private and public collections. These paintings include his 1907 Portrait of a Gentleman (thought by some scholars to be a self-portrait); a complex arrangement of books, fruit, and floral patterns, circa 1925-1930, entitled Fruit and Flowers (Reflections); and one of his late abstract still lifes, Still Life with an Orange Gourd (circa 1937-1939), which he had given to Piper as a wedding present in 1943.

Several paintings have been loaned by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, including In White, a portrait by Car­ies’s sister, Sara Carles (1894-1965); a still life entitled Lilies, by Piper’s first painting teacher, Grace Thorp Gemberling (1903-1997); and Piper’s Study in Red (1953) which, when purchased by the Academy in 1954, was the artist’s first work acquired by a museum. Important pieces were also lent by Bryn Mawr College, Woodmere Art Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The exhibit includes works by more than twenty contemporaries of Jane Piper, including Philadelphia-based artists Morris Berd (born 1914), Morris Blackburn (1902-1979), Quita Brodhead (born 1901), Larry Day (1921-1998), Mitzi Melnicoff (1922-1972), Edith Neff (1943-1995), Doris Staffel (born 1921), and Rose Naftulin (born 1925). Represented in “Jane Piper and Her Circle” by a painting entitled Still Life Before Snow (circa 1991), Naftulin first saw Piper’s works in an exhibition more than forty years ago. “I was literally stopped in my tracks,” she wrote. “From then on I began to look for Piper’s works in exhibitions … The pleasure of looking at her grey-greens next to emerald green, pale blues next to cobalt and turquoise, next to orange and yellow influenced me.” Naftulin later “became aware of her as an artist and human being. Her strong dedication to her work inspired me and her honest comments on my own work were valuable. Very few artists are true artists. She was.”

Piper was an influential teacher and the exhibition contains pieces by nine of her students. Several works, lent by the artist’s daughter, painter Jan Carles Baltzell (represented by an untitled canvas painted in 1989), were originally owned by Piper. Other works were donated to The State Museum of Pennsylvania by the artists in memory of Piper.

“Jane Piper and Her Circle: Three Generations of Painters in Philadelphia” includes documentary materials, photographs, and memorabilia, including paintbrushes used by Carles and Piper and a group of still life objects painted by Piper. The show also features several of her sketchbooks. A twelve-minute video, Quita Brodhead: Reflections of Arthur B. Car­les, produced by Vivian Bullaudy of the Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, for Fire Dog Films, Penn Valley, Montgomery County, will be shown in the galleries. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated brochure containing a checklist.

Guest curator for the exhibition is Philadelphia painter Bill Scott, a former student of Jane Piper, who writes regularly about Philadelphia art and artists for various magazines, including Art in America.

“Jane Piper and Her Circle: Three Gen­erations of Painters in Philadelphia” will continue through Sunday, January 14, 2001. A reception, to which the public is invited, will be held on Sunday, November 19 [2000].


In Line

Al Hirschfeld was eleven years old when an art teacher advised his mother that there was “nothing more we can teach him in St. Louis,” and so the Hirschfelds moved east from Missouri to New York, where he eventually studied at the Art Student’s League. Hollywood was next. Hirschfeld landed a job with Samuel Goldwyn Studios and in 1921, at the age of eighteen, he became an art director for Selznick Pictures. When Selznick declared bankruptcy, he moved on to Warner Brothers.

In 1925, Hirschfeld spent six months in Paris but returned to New York, intending to pursue a career as an artist. His sketch of actor Sacha Guitry (1885-1957) appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on December 26, 1926, and within two years his drawings of theater people were appearing in five New York newspapers, including The New York Times.

American theater was growing enormously popular in the thirties, and it was Al Hirschfeld who captured the essence of each new Broadway play on opening night in a drawing published the following Sunday. A new generation of playwrights – among them George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Orson Wells, Clifford Odets, and William Saroyan-was expanding the scope of the theater and the actors and actresses of the day, including Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, rose to meet the chal­lenge. The record he made of the plays and playwrights, the actors and actresses, the producers and productions, whether famous or obscure, is extraordinary. Just as outstanding was his book entitled Manhat­tan Oases (1932) with which he portrayed the bars and bartenders of New York.

Hirschfeld and humorist S.J. Perelman, who first met in 1929 in Paris, spent eight months traveling the world in the forties, resulting in Westward Ha!, the first of many books on which they collaborated. Perel­man’s blazing wit and Hirschfeld’s brilliant drawings accounted for other works, including Listen to the Mockingbird (1949) and The Swiss Family Perelman (1950). Hirschfeld’s drawings also appeared in Perelman’s memoirs entitled And Did You Once See Sidney Plain? (1986).

In 1943, Hirschfeld married Dolly Haas (1910-1994), one of Europe’s most popular actresses, and two years later they had a daughter, Nina, whose name the artist “hid” among the lines in his drawings.

Hirschfeld’s drawing of the famous Algonquin Round Table-a group of literary lions noted for their witty barbs – includes George S. Kaufman, who owned a farmhouse in Bucks County, and tablemates Edna Ferber and Alexander Woolcott, who visited him at his Pennsylvania retreat, which he christened Cherchez La Farm. Hirschfeld attended the opening night at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope on Saturday, July 1, 1939, which he immortalized with a drawing of the celebrities in attendance, including Moss Hart, George and Beatrice Kaufman, and Richard Bennett (see “Broadway Takes a Bow in Bucks County: A Conversation with Kitty Carlisle Hart and Anne Kaufman Schneider” by Michael J. O’Malley III in the fall 2000 issue). Hirschfeld returned ten years later to the region – to Lambertville, New Jersey, opposite New Hope across the Delaware River – for the opening of St. John Ter­rell’s Lambertville Music Circus. His sketch of the premiere performance of Franz Lehar’s popular operetta The Merry Widow on Saturday, July 2, 1949, showed newlywed stars Wilber Evans and Su­sanna Foster and conductor Bobby Zeller.

“In Line With Al Hirschfeld: An Al Hirschfeld Retrospective,” which recently opened at the James A. Michener Art Mu­seum in Doylestown, Bucks County, is the first museum exhibition to document the artist’s life and career and, to a great ex­tent, the history of the performing arts in the twentieth century. The exhibition ex­amines his influences, his iconography, and his techniques, from his earliest works to his most recent drawings. It also allows visitors to trace Hirschfeld’s evolution by viewing his body of work, including origi­nal drawings and paintings, sketchbooks, and ephemera, much of which has never before been exhibited. A legendary master of line, Al Hirschfeld has influenced virtu­ally everyone working in black and white today, and his drawings have delighted audiences for decades.

Hirschfeld’s association with The New York Times has made his name a “verb of recognition.” To be “Hirschfelded,” explains the exhibit’s guest curator, theater historian and Hirschfeld archivist David Leopold, “is a sign that one has arrived.” The exhibition demonstrates that Hirschfeld intuitively assimilated the graphic sense of friends John Held and Miquel Covarrubias, the manipulation of perspective of master Japanese print makers Hokusai. and Utamaro, and transmuted the negative characteristics of the genre known as caricature in his thumbprint a joyful, life-affirming line. Instead of relying on the outline or profile of his subjects – like many of his contemporaries – he has employed a palette of graphic symbols to translate the action of the whole body into line drawings that have become the lingua franca (“international language”) of generations of actors and audiences.

Leopold, who was given carte blanche to examine a lifetime of work with Al Hirschfeld at his side, has assembled this retrospective that begins with a drawing made by the artist when he was eleven years old and concludes with his most recently published work for The New York Times. Included are all facets of his lively talent: movie work for MGM films; drawings made in Paris, North Africa, Bali, and Russia in the late 1920s (shown for the first time); political work; New York’s nightlife; and the first Nina drawing.

“In Line with Hirschfeld: An Al Hirschfeld Retrospective,” which continues through Sunday, February 11, 2001, will be accompanied by a series of pro­grams and activities, including a silent film series, lectures, gallery talks, and teacher workshops.

To obtain additional information, write: James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901; tele­phone (215) 340-9800; or visit the James A. Michener Art Museum website. There is an admission charge.