Currents

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 Flying Pho­tographer

“Sam Kuhnert: Flying Pho­tographer” is an exhibit of the aerial photographer’s work currently on view at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, through January 18, 1987. Kuhnert, born in Steelton in 1890, was raised in Powell’s Valley in the northern reaches of Dauphin County. Fascinated by both cameras and airplanes, he combined his interests to become in 1919 the first aerial photographer in central Pennsylvania. Upon his death in 1978, his family presented six thousand of his negatives and prints, as well as flying apparel and equipment, to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. This exhibit is drawn from the collection.

Hanging precariously from an open cockpit while holding a bulky camera, Kuhnert and one of a cadre of accommodat­ing pilots barnstormed the countryside, freezing for pos­terity the farms, villages, towns and cities which punc­tuated the Pennsylvania land­scape. With each flight, he dared his pilot to fly as low as possible to capture the land­scapes and landmarks from unusual angles and to record history for future generations. (An illustrated article recount­ing the life and work of the photographer, “With A Cam­era In The Sky,” written by Linda A. Ries and James R. Mitchell, appeared in the sum­mer 1986 edition of this magazine.)

The exhibition opens with a section titled “Sam Kuhnert’s Personal Illustrated History of Aviation” and features stun­ning photographs of an early autogiro named “Miss Tydol”; the Gulfhawk biplane; a 1929 Jenny biplane; Wiley Post’s famous 1933 Winnie May; and the 1930 Harrisburg stopover of the first New York to Los Angeles airmail flight, in a tri-­motor monoplane.

Kuhnert photographed central Pennsylvania and Maryland from Coatesville in the east to Bedford in the west, and from Bellefonte in the north to Havre de Grace in the south. He captured aerial views of Harrisburg and its many landmarks, William­sport, York, Sunbury, New Cumberland, State College, Gettysburg, Lebanon, Lancas­ter, Hanover, Camp Hill, Bloomsburg and Marysville. He was also fond of photo­graphing personalities – both celebrities and good friends­ – of his day, including Eleanor Roosevelt on a visit to Harris­burg, friend and pilot John Abiuso and stunt pilot Billie Leonard. He supported his commercial photography en­terprise with work for police departments and insurance companies, for which he docu­mented scenes of crimes, auto­mobile accidents, train wrecks and floods.

A number of special events and activities have been planned in conjunction with “Sam Kuhnert: Flying Photog­rapher,” including a fall film series and a conference ad­dressing Pennsylvania photog­raphy. To obtain more details, write: The State Museum of Pennsylvania, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 787-4980.

Located at Third and North Streets, adjacent to the State Capitol, The State Museum is open Tuesday through Satur­day, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., and Sunday, Noon to 5 P.M. Ad­mission is free. In addition to permanent and changing exhibits, the museum offers a planetarium, museum shops and a cafe.

 

“Miracle at Philadelphia”

In a letter to Lafayette, in which he assessed the work of the Constitutional Conven­tion, George Washington wrote: “It appears to me then, little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states … different in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of govern­ment …. ”

Opening September 17 [1986], the one hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of the convening of the Constitutional Conven­tion, a landmark exhibition entitled “Miracle at Philadel­phia: The U.S. Constitutional Convention” will recount the powerful human drama of the sweltering summer of 1787 when fifty-five men from twelve states met in secret sessions in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall to write the famous document.

The exhibition will be housed one block from Inde­pendence Hail in the historic Second Bank of the United States. Centering on unique and treasured documents and portraits drawn from four great Philadelphia repositories and from throughout the country, “Miracle at Philadel­phia” will describe the crucial periods before, during and after the Revolutionary War. Chronological exhibition areas will portray the forces which culminated in the call to the Convention; the major issues argued, fought or compro­mised to produce the final version; and the means by which the thirteen sovereign states were led to ratification. Supplementing the historic materials will be sculpture, models, audio-visual presenta­tions, computer graphics and talks by National Park Service staff to narrate the events, people and ideas surrounding the Constitutional Convention.

Documents featured in “Mir­acle at Philadelphia” include personal letters by Washing­ton, Madison, the Morrises, Jay and others who voiced their alarm and reiterated their hopes as they moved toward a convention to reform the struc­ture of government. Other documents, maps and related graphics evoke both the per­sonal plights and the exhilarat­ing possibilities encountered during the crucial years. One gallery area features an audio­visual presentation, “The Sound of the Debates,” which brings the tumultuous Con­vention to life for the visitor.

“Miracle at Philadelphia” continues through December 31, 1987. Admission is free, but visitors are asked to pick up passes at the Visitors Center at Third and Walnut Streets.

The Second Bank of the United States is located on Chestnut Street, between Fourth and Fifth Streets. For more information, write: Inde­pendence National Historical Park, 311-313 Walnut St., Phila­delphia, PA 19106; or tele­phone Roslyn Brewer, Public Affairs Specialist, at (215) 597-9385 or the park information office at 597-8974.

 

A Prized Acquisition

A stunning portrait of a well­-known Pennsylvania military figure has been given to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission by a Harrisburg resident. On view at The State Museum of Penn­sylvania in center-city Harris­burg, the portrait of Henry Augustus Hambright, a promi­nent Lancaster countian, was a gift of Mrs. George S. Call, in whose family the piece de­scended.

Henry Augustus Ham­bright’s family was prominent in the Commonwealth’s mili­tary history throughout the nineteenth century. During the early nineteenth century, his father Frederic Hambright, was a major general of the Pennsylvania militia and an aide to the governor in 1842. Henry Augustus Hambright marched off to the Mexican War as a sergeant with the Cameron Guards, a Dauphin County militia company which served in Mexico in 1847 and 1848. Hambright did not re­main a sergeant for very long; he was appointed a first lieu­tenant in the U.S. Army in August 1847 as a reward for gallantry. On his return to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1848, he was named an aide to Gov. William Johnston, during which time the portrait was apparently painted.

The prized painting depicts Hambright in a Pennsylvania general’s or staff officer’s uni­form circa 1851-1853. Museum curators were able to date the portrait because the uniform, while that of the Pennsylvania militia, incorporated a portion of the insignia first authorized for the U.S. Army in 1851 and copied by the militia not longer afterward. The place­ment of buttons in pairs on the coat signified the rank of a general officer, while the cha­peau de bras (hat) and sash indicated high rank or staff assignment. Hambright’s sword was authorized for general and staff officers under federal regulations of 1832.

Henry Augustus Hambright became colonel of the Seventy­Ninth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, fighting with the regiment in Chicamauga and Murfreesboro and during Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. At the close of the Civil War he became a briga­dier general, but remained with the regular Army at re­duced rank (necessitated by drastic reductions in personnel following the war). He retired in 1879 to Lancaster, where he died in February 1893.

Although the painting has not been attributed to a partic­ular artist, there has been some speculation that it may have been executed by a mem­ber of the Sully or Peale families.

For additional details regard­ing the Hambright portrait or the Commonwealth’s vast military history collections, write: Bruce S. Bazelon, Regis­trar’s Office, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission, P.O. Box 1026, Harris­burg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 783-9935.

 

Seven­teenth Century Primer

A selection of seventeenth century books, manuscripts and works of art on display at the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, portrays life in England and the Ameri­can colonies during a period of great upheaval. “A Seven­teenth Century Primer: Books, Manuscripts and Portraits from England and America” illus­trates the contrasts between the brilliant courts of King James I and Charles I and the somber Puritans who fought a bitter religious war at mid­century. Likewise, the witty, even frivolous, poems re­corded in commonplace books mark a lifestyle quite different from that advocated by John Donne when he enjoined the Virginia Company to witness to the Lord in the New World, or from John Bunyan’s stem warnings about loose living in his tale of Mr. Badman.

The vigor and variety of English life apart from the courts and Parliament can be seen in books and documents which reflect a rising middle class. Street literature began to appear as literacy spread and individuals clamored for ac­cess to affordable stories and information. University stu­dents relished silly, and occa­sionally lewd, joke books. The development of amateur inter­est in science promoted trea­tises on such things as bee-keeping. The seventeenth century Englishman was not without his investments: the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay Companies hoped to realize profits from their plan­tations, and even John Milton purchased a mortgage on a London house – not to live in, but to rent.

Major changes in the En­glishman’s world are echoed in Roger Williams’ dictionary of American Indian language, the first serious attempt at serious communication with the Na­tive Americans; in the papers of John Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell’s trusted spy; and in the Restoration document whereby Charles II reopened the theaters and allowed women to perform on the stage.

Perhaps a Ptolemaic map printed in 1605 best suggests the upheaval during the sev­enteenth century. At a time when the shape of the British Isles was perfectly well known, cartographers per­sisted in using a second cen­tury version, relying on tradition rather than contem­porary science. On the other hand, the settlers in the New World produced remarkably accurate maps of that un­charted land, where practical­ity, not tradition, reigned.

“A Seventeenth Century Primer” continues through September 21 [1986]. The Rosenbach Museum and Library’s visiting hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. Admission is charged.

For additional details, write: Rosenbach Museum and Li­brary, 2010 DeLancey Pl., Phil­adelphia, PA 19103; or telephone (215) 732-1600.

 

An English Potter in America

“Frederick Hurten Rhead: An English Potter in America” is an exhibition mounted by the Erie Art Museum to ex­plore the life and work of the innovative ceramic artist and designer who created the twentieth century’s popular and ubiquitous Fiesta Ware. The exhibit, the first survey of Rhead’s work and the first major exploration of his enor­mous influence on the design and technology of American ceramic art in the first half of this century, continues through September 28 [1986].

“An English Potter in Amer­ica” invites the visitor on a journey through the peripa­tetic life of Rhead, from the time he arrived in the United States and began as a designer at Vance/Avon in 1902, through his accomplishments in other Ohio Valley potteries. He first became associated with Weller, whose products are now highly collectible, and later with Roseville, for which he served as art director and designer. At Roseville he was responsible for five lines of wares, including the pottery’s most aesthetically successful product, “Della Robia.”

From 1909 to 1911, Frederick Hurten Rhead joined French ceramist Taxile Doat and his life-long friend, the American porcelain artist Adelaide Alsop Robineau, on the faculty at University City near St. Louis where creative interaction­ – free from commercial pressures – spawned his best work. In 1913, after having initiated the ceramics program at Arequipa, a California tu­berculosis sanitarium, Rhead moved to Santa Barbara, where he established his own pottery studio. A prolific writer, he contributed articles to the important arts and crafts magazine, Keramic Studio and published his own periodical, The Potter, at Santa Barbara. He later returned to Ohio to become research director at American Encaustic Tiling Company. In 1927, he became art director for the Homer Laughlin China Company where he created the triumph of American commercial ce­ramic design, Fiesta Ware.

An illustrated catalogue accompanies “Frederick Hur­ten Rhead: An English Potter in America.”

Museum visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P.M. For additional informa­tion, write: Erie Art Museum, 411 State St. , Erie, PA 16501; or telephone (814) 459-5477. Ad­mission is charged.

 

Lancaster County Exhibits

Elaborately carved and en­graved long rifles and deli­cately inlaid furniture make up two recently opened exhibits at the Heritage Center of Lancas­ter County in downtown Lan­caster. Both exhibits continue through December 20 [1986].

“Lancaster County Federal Furniture, c. 1790-1830” show­cases thirty-four examples of furniture produced by Lancas­ter County craftsmen in the federal or neoclassical style, popular in the Lancaster area for four decades. The exhibit examines the shift in furniture fashion during the late eight­eenth century from the natu­ralistic rococo or Chippendale style to the more austere fed­eral style. The first exhibit to closely examine this early period in Lancaster’s furniture history, “Lancaster County Federal Furniture” includes objects never before publicly exhibited. Many pieces bear the original cabinetmaker’s signature. Also on view are objects from the Heritage Center’s permanent collection, including a recently acquired rod-back Windsor-style settee signed by Lancaster chairma­kers Frederick and Jacob Fetter. The rare settee dates from about 1814-1818.

Carved long rifles with en­graved brass and silver mount­ings handcrafted by early local gunsmiths are explored in an exhibit, “Lancaster County Long Rifles.” The exhibit traces the evolution of the “Ken­tucky” rifle from its European antecedents, and examines the stylistic development chrono­logically and the various levels of artistic achievement found in examples crafted in the Lancaster area. More than forty outstanding firearms made by early gunsmiths – among them J. Ferree, Mel­choir Fordney, Isaac Haines, Jacob Dickert and Peter Brong – are displayed. Many have been borrowed from private collectors specifically for this show.

The Heritage Center, located on Penn Square, is open Tues­day through Saturday, from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Admission is free.

To obtain additional informa­tion regarding the programs and activities of the museum and educational facility, write: Heritage Center of Lancaster County, Penn Square, Box 997, Lancaster, PA 17603; or tele­phone (717) 299-6440.

 

Philadelphia Architectural Graphics

The rich architectural tradi­tion of Philadelphia will be seen through three centuries of drawings in a major exhibi­tion mounted by the Pennsyl­vania Academy of the Fine Arts, “Drawing Toward Build­ing: Philadelphia Architectural Graphics, 1732-1986.” Opening October 10 [1986], the show will continue through January 4, 1987, at the center-city Phila­delphia museum.

“Drawing Toward Building” will begin with the original presentation drawing of Inde­pendence Hall and conclude with a computer rendering showing the city with a com­pleted Liberty Place. The drawings vary from ultra-fine ink line drawings to brilliantly colored perspectives and eval­uations, and from tiny pencil sketches to immense render­ings in the beaux arts style.

The exhibition will encom­pass two hundred and fifty of the most important Philadel­phia architectural drawings ever assembled. These include well-known works, those which have long been out of Philadelphia or held in private collections inaccessible to the public, as well as many draw­ings never previously exhibited by talented (but generally unknown) architects. Approxi­mately forty of the works were drawn by contemporary city architects, selected during a competition conducted in 1984. Through the drawings, this exhibition will explore the development of architecture as a profession and fine arts disci­pline. It will demonstrate that architectural drawing main­tains its own technical and aesthetic integrity, but it also relates to the fluctuations of taste and fashion that have shaped the other fine arts.

Approximately one-half of the works comprising “Draw­ing Toward Building” repre­sent architects of the late eighteenth and early nine­teenth centuries, including Benjamin Henry Latrobe, William Strickland, Frederick Graff, John Haviland, Thomas U. Walter, John MacArthur, Jr., Stephen Button, Samuel Sloan, Napoleon LeBrun, Frank Furness, John Notman, Addison Hutton and James Windrim. About one-fourth of the exhibition will feature works by late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries archi­tects, such as Paul Cret, Wilson Eyre, Jr., Edmund Gilchrist, George Howe, Horace Trumbauer, Wilson Brothers, Cope and Steward­son, William Price and Frank Miles Day.

The contemporary period, from 1930 to the present, will include drawings by Louis I. Kahn, Robert Venturi, Mitchell/Giurgola and Mario Romanach. The twentieth century drawings clarify the connection between city plan­ning and design that hallmarked Philadelphia as a showplace of post-World War II modern urbanism.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Additional information is available by writing: Pennsyl­vania Academy of the Fine Arts, Broad and Cherry Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or by telephoning (215) 972-7600.

 

Lambdin at Brandywine

Philadelphia painter George Cochran Lambdin (1830-1896) was a significant artist because he spoke for his times. He was also a favorite in his own day. But it was not until the 1970s and 1980s – the decades mark­ing the centennial of his finest, mature work – that he was rediscovered. Before scholarly research by William Gerdts brought Lambdin to public attention, the only existing biographies were a one para­graph entry in a nineteenth century biographical dictio­nary and a brief 1884 article about the artist in his Philadel­phia studio.

Active in both Philadelphia and New York, Lambdin ex­hibited widely and was highly acclaimed by critics of the period. His output was large and the range of his subject matter unusually broad. His total ouevre included senti­mental and anecdotal genre, studies of young women, Civil War subjects and the flower still lifes for which he became so well known. Eventually, his flower studies were distributed as chromolithographs by pub­lisher Louis Prang of Boston.

Born in Pittsburgh, George Cochran Lambdin was less than ten years old when his family moved to Philadelphia in the late 1830s. During his formative years, his father, James Reid Lambdin, a noted portraitist, probably taught George the rudiments of painting. In the mid-1850s, he traveled in Europe and is thought to have studied in Paris, Munich and Rome. For a brief period he also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

George Cochran Lambdin’s most notable works were cre­ated in the 1860s, beginning with the portraiture of chil­dren. These works show a “child’s world,” a realm in which children participate without adult supervision and interference. The viewer is the unseen observer of their se­crets, their carefree pursuits. Children are depicted either sketching or painting, running or frolicking or serenely fish­ing at a river’s edge.

During the same decade, Lambdin concentrated on a number of Civil War themes, primarily important because they interpret the event in human and psychological terms rather than as historical or anecdotal occurrences. Usually, the subject is sur­rounded by various personal effects and is lost in reverie. The paintings do not comment on the war or the soldiers’ activities; instead, they tell of loneliness and isolation. The emotional message was reiter­ated in Lambdin’s paintings of death, which appears to have been a popular theme during the Victorian era.

In 1867, Lambdin exhibited in Paris and the following year moved his studio to New York. During the 1870s, the artist began working with two major subject groups: a series of girls reading, meditating or engag­ing in quiet activity; and the brilliant studies of flowers for which he is best known today. He showed the first of his flower studies at the National Academy of Design in 1873. These still lifes are probably the most successful of Lamb­din’s work. Although he re­putedly employed an English gardener, he cultivated many of the plants in his German­town garden.

To survey the broad scope of Lambdin’s work, the Brandy­wine River Museum in Chadds Ford has mounted an exhibit of fifty of his paintings. The show will continue through November 23 [1986].

The Brandywine River Mu­seum is open daily, from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Admission is charged.

For additional information, write: Brandywine River Mu­seum, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (215) 388-7601.

 

Gold Braid and Flashing Blades

The uniform of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant will share a room with one worn by Galusha Pennypacker, a Chester countian who, at the age of twenty­-two, was the youngest brevet major general in the history of the United States in an exhibit entitled “Gold Braid and Flashing Blades: Pennsylvania Military Accessories” at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. Open­ing September 26 [1986], the show features swords, military dress and historic firearms from the Revolutionary War era to the twentieth century.

The swordsmith’s art is well illustrated in this selection of fine blades, many of which were imported from Europe. French, German and Ameri­can craftsmanship is dis­played, including many pieces never before seen by the pub­lic. “Gold Braid and Flashing Blades” traces the evolution of the American military sword from practical weapon, through its use as an insignia of rank and status, to its ultimate significance as a symbol of homage, usually presented ceremonially by a grateful people to their military heroes. Most importantly, this exhibit recounts the military esca­pades, trials and achievements of America’s heroic soldiers and sailors.

The exhibit will continue at the Chester County Historical Society through February 7, 1987. It will then travel to the National Guard Heritage Gal­lery in Washington, D.C., the Fort Pitt Museum in Pitts­burgh, and the Brandywine Battlefield Park, Chadds Ford.

For information regarding visiting hours and tours, write: Chester County Histori­cal Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or telephone (215) 692-4800.

 

Phila­delphia Collects

Since the late nineteenth century, when Philadelphians were the first in the nation to purchase and exhibit impres­sionist paintings, private col­lectors in and around the city have shown a remarkable interest in the most contempo­rary art of their time. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has mounted an exhibition saluting Philadelphia’s rare appreciation of outstanding works by new – and often controversial – artists. “Phila­delphia Collects: Art Since 1940,” an exhibition of one hundred and sixty paintings, sculptures and works on paper drawn from eighty private collections, will be on view at the museum from September 28 [1986] through November 30 [1986].

“Philadelphia Collects: Art Since 1940” offers visitors a broad survey of important artistic developments during the post-World War 11 era, and celebrates the adventurous spirit of contemporary Phila­delphia collectors. The exhibi­tion begins with late works by artists most strongly associ­ated with the first half of this century, such as Picasso and Giacometti, who had a lasting influence on following genera­tions of artists. However, the major emphasis of the exhibi­tion concerns the styles and movements which have em­erged in Europe and the United States since World War II.

Important works of the 1950s and 1960s include abstract expressionist canvases by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky, and sculptures by David Smith and Joseph Cornell. Philadelphia also boasts holdings of pop art, such as the four-foot model by Claes Oldenburg for Clothespin No. 4 (located opposite City Hall), a group of canvases by Andy Warhol, paintings by Jim Dine and Robert Rauschen­berg, several works by Roy Lichtenstein and sculpture by George Segal.

Works from the 1970s and the 1980s represent virtually every one of the lively and diverse movements which mark the contemporary scene: return to realism, recent exper­iments in abstraction, color field painting and new image and other forms of figuration.

A fully illustrated catalogue written by Mark Rosenthal, curator of twentieth century art for the Philadelphia Mu­seum of Art, will accompany “Philadelphia Collects.”

Additional information re­garding “Philadelphia Col­lects” and museum visiting hours may be obtained by writing: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Parkway at Twenty­-Sixth St., Philadelphia, PA 19101; or by telephoning (215) 763-8100.