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.

Reflections

The lively maritime world and passionate artistic re­sponse of internationally re­nowned nineteenth century realist painter Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) is the subject of a major exhibit currently on view at the Philadelphia Mari­time Museum. Mounted in conjunction with the city-wide celebration honoring the artist – which centers around the major retrospective, “Thomas Eakins Rediscovered: At Home, At School, At Work,” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) – “Thomas Eakins: Reflections on the Water” will continue through March 15, 1992.

A sailor, sculler, and hunter, Eakins was a careful observer and recorder of life along the rivers and in the wetlands. His marine art reveals his love of water activities, his interest in depicting the human body in motion, his fascination with realistically capturing the light on the color of water, and the challenge of accurately render­ing sailing vessels. “I know of no prettier problem in perspec­tive,” he wrote, than to draw a yacht sailing. Now it is not possible to prop her up on dry land, so as to draw her or photograph her, nor can she be made to hold still in the water.” Highlighting “Thomas Eakins: Reflections on the Water” is the artist’s 1875 oil painting Sailing, loaned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“Thomas Eakins: Reflec­tions on the Water” focuses specifically on the painter’s life-long love affair with both river and sea, and features oils, watercolors, and photo­graphs, as well as the types of small watercraft and artifacts depicted in the art work. A rower and sailer, Eakins keenly observed and studiously re­corded his era’s varied mari­time pursuits, and transformed the familiar and the commonplace into art with an extraordinary technical skill and frank style of realism. His most dramatic works capture the common man, and provide a compelling portrait of a time when waterways were not seen as barriers, but as desti­nations, by large numbers of ordinary working families.

The artist was especially fascinated by rowing, and he was the first to give the sport serious attention on canvas. Philadelphia was a national center for the emerging sport during the late nineteenth century, when large crowds thronged to – and newspapers carried vivid accounts of – the popular racing events on the Schuylkill River. Eakins him­self owned a “Delaware ducker,” an adaptable boat used for sailing, racing, and hunting. Both he and his wife, Susan Macdowell Eakins, were avid sailors.

Fishing and various mari­time occupational activities figured prominently in Thomas Eakins’ work. In oil paintings, watercolors, and photographs, he captured the rhythms of the region’s shad fishermen as they set their nets, hauled in their catch, and repaired their equipment on the shoreline. He also par­ticipated in the popular sport of hunting railbirds – game birds regarded as a delicacy­ – in the marshes of southern New Jersey. As he often did in his rowing works, he included himself in the artwork.

Naval subjects also play a role in “Thomas Eakins: Re­flections on the Water.” In­cluded is a striking portrait of Rear Admiral Charles Sigsbee, a hero of the Spanish­-American War and a comman­dant of the League Island Navy Yard (now known as the Philadelphia Navy Yard).

“Thomas Eakins: Reflec­tions on the Water” will be supplemented by a series of public programs and special events saluting the artist and his maritime legacy. For addi­tional information regarding this exhibition and related activities, write: Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 321 Chest­nut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106-2779; or telephone (215) 925-5439.

Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 P.M. There is a charge for admis­sion.

 

Military Time

Continuing on view through April 1992 at the Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Lancaster County, is an exhibit devoted exclu­sively to military timepieces and their evolution. The exhi­bition showcases fascinating examples of military wrist­watches, naval deck watches, navigation watches, and air­craft instrument panel clocks and chronometers. A highlight of this exhibition is an in­scribed pocket chronometer presented to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry by the United States government following his victory on Lake Erie in September 1813 during the War of 1812. The rare eight­een karat gold cased chronom­eter was recently donated to the museum, which is admin­istered by the National Associ­ation of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC).

During World War II, the Hamilton Watch Company, located in Lancaster, was the only watch company in the country able to manufacture a chronometer which met the rigid specifications established by the United States Navy. The first to mass produce the chro­nometer, the Hamilton Watch Company manufactured more chronometers in just one month than were made world­wide any year prior to the war. The greatest production record for one month was set in Octo­ber 1944, when the company delivered 546 chronometers to the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

The design of the Hamilton ship’s chronometer resembled its Swiss predecessor, but changes were made to accom­modate mass production and to create a timepiece which exceeded expectations. After meeting the commitment of its contract, the Hamilton Watch Company used the remaining inventory to assemble chro­nometers which were sold to consumers for two hundred and fifty dollars each. The company manufactured seven hundred and fifty complete chronometers before exhaust­ing its inventory. The firm sold the remaining unused parts and equipment, bringing to an end a distinguished – and exclusive – line of the Hamilton Watch Company.

The Watch and Clock Mu­seum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. Admission is charged.

To obtain additional infor­mation, write: Watch and Clock Museum, National As­sociation of Watch and Clock Collectors, 514 Poplar St. , Columbia, PA 17512; or tele­phone (717) 684-8261.

 

Lady Artists

At an art exhibit in West Chester in 1908, a perceptive local critic wrote, “Particularly are the lady artists in evi­dence.” He further opined that “women have come to stay” in the realm of art, once almost exclusively dominated by men.

Among those women work­ing at the turn of the century were four West Chester artists – Esther Mathilda Groome, Martha Jackson Cornwell, Ada Clendenin Williamson, and Helen Shar­ples Butler – who challenged the idea that art for women might only be an acceptable “hobby.” Born in the second half of the nineteenth century, Groome, Cornwell, William­son, and Butler were trained in the classic European tradition of painting. They studied under some of the most out­standing teachers of their day – Robert Henri, Augustus St. Gaudens, Howard Pyle­ – and at prestigious institutions such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Art Students League of New York, Maryland Institute of Art, and Drexel Institute. They were inspired by other female artists who had broken ground as respected – and renowned­ – professionals. Their role models and mentors included Cecilia Beaux, Susan Macdo­well Eakins, Catherine Drinker Janvier, and Mary Cassatt.

Except for Helen Sharples Butler, whose early promise was cut short by death in her mid-thirties, Groome, Cornwell, and Williamson enjoyed long and rewarding careers. Esther Groome made her mark as the head of the art depart­ment of the West Chester Nor­mal School (now West Chester University of Pennsylvania) from 1894 to 1920. Martha Cornwell opened a studio in New York where her bas relief portraits – especially those of children – were lauded in 1899 by The New York Times. Ada Williamson, painter and illus­trator, followed her love of portraiture during a highly productive career that spanned forty-eight years. Collectively, their work expresses the vigor­ous and dedicated entry of women into America’s fiercely guarded art community at the dosing of the nineteenth cen­tury.

The lives and work of Groome, Cornwell, William­son, and Butler are the sub­jects of a recently installed exhibition, “Lady Artists in Evidence,” at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. More than thirty works of art, including oils, watercolors, etchings, pastels, bronze sculpture, and plaster reliefs are on view. A charming selection of handmade paper dolls by Groome and an illus­trated book of jingles by Corn­well, accompanied by photographs of the artists, are also included in this exhibit.

A special lectures series accompanying “Lady Artists in Evidence” will be presented on Wednesdays, March 11, 18, and 25, and April 1, 1992, at the Chester County Art Asso­ciation, Bradford and Gay streets, West Chester. Topics include art education at the turn of the century, Cecilia Beaux, Susan Macdowell Eakins, and the contemporary regional art scene.

“Lady Artists in Evidence” continues through August 22, 1992.

Visiting hours are Tuesday, and Thursday through Satur­day, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.; and Wednesday, from 1 to 8 P.M. There is a charge for admis­sion.

For additional information about this exhibit and related educational programs, includ­ing the lectures series, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or telephone (215) 692-4800.

 

Arcfest ’92

The Pennsylvania State Archives will sponsor “ArcFest ’92,” a week-long celebration of the Commonwealth’s docu­mentary heritage, from Satur­day, May 16, 1992, to Saturday, May 23. The popular annual event will feature a genealogy conference, special thematic exhibits, and extended evening and weekend hours for re­search in the State Archives.

The highlight of “ArcFest ’92” will be Family Heritage Day on Saturday, May 23 [1992]. Throughout the day, individuals are invited to bring family treasures-documents such as birth certificates, military re­cords, wills and deeds, busi­ness papers, and autograph albums – for free examination and appraisal by a professional manuscript dealer. The staff of the Pennsylvania State Ar­chives will offer advice on how to best preserve important family documents. Costumed artisans and interpreters will demonstrate the traditional crafts of papermaking and calligraphy, and a craftsman­ – who learned to make hats according to historical records in the State Archives – will discuss his methods. An en­semble will entertain visitors with renditions of music of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. A Civil War reenactment group will conduct drills and explain military life in the mid­-nineteenth century.

Additional information regarding “ArcFest ’92,” in­cluding the genealogy confer­ence scheduled for Saturday, May 16 [1992], may be obtained by writing: “ArcFest ’92,” Penn­sylvania State Archives, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or by telephoning (717) 787-5953.

 

Discover Germantown

The historic neighborhood of Germantown lies in the northwest quadrant of the City of Philadelphia. Settled in 1683 by a group of German immi­grants, the town is best known as the site of an important Revolutionary War battle and as a resort for wealthy Phila­delphians during the eight­eenth century. Fledgling Germantown was a lively and diverse place: German and English were spoken inter­changeably; generals plotted battle strategy and charted military maneuvers; affluent city dwellers shared the cob­blestone streets with craftsmen who lived in Germantown year-round. Scholars believe that each group left its mark on what today is a fascinating urban village – and one that is steeped in more than three centuries of history.

In an innovative collabora­tion, several organizations have developed a special tour of three historic sites in Ger­mantown to showcase various aspects of one of the country’s most historic communities. “Germans, Generals, and Gentlemen,” which allows visitors to explore German­town’s rich past through its people, features the Germantown Historical Society, Grumblethorpe, and the Deshler-Morris House.

The tour begins at the Ger­mantown Historical Society, 5501 Germantown Avenue, which is centrally located on historic Market Square. Through changing exhibitions, visitors discover what attracted the first German settlers more than three centuries ago, how they built a prosperous com­munity, and – years later – why Germantown became the site of a major battle in the strug­gle for American indepen­dence.

Grumblethorpe, 5267 Ger­mantown Avenue, was the residence of German wine importer John Wister and his family for more than a century and a half. Construction of the house began in 1744, followed by the planting of orchards and experimental gardens. Wister’s grandson provided the house’s distinctive name, borrowed from a fictional English manor. Grumblethorpe served as British General Agnew’s head­quarters during the Battle of Germantown in 1777, and as the Wister family’s country refuge from the deadly yellow fever epidemics raging in Phil­adelphia during the closing decade of the eighteenth century.

The Deshler-Morris House, 5442 Germantown Avenue, was home to several promi­nent eighteenth century per­sonalities. Sir William Howe, noted British general, used the house as his headquarters during the American Revolu­tion. Ironically, nearly twenty years later the house became Pres. George Washington’s summer residence, office, and family retreat while Philadel­phia served as the capital of the United States. Washington met with members of his cabi­net at the structure, including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph, to manage the affairs of the new republic. The Deshler-Morris House is administered by Independence National Historical Park.

“Germans, Generals, and Gentlemen” is conducted Tuesday, Thursday, and Sun­day, from 1 to 4 PM.; other hours are available by appoint­ment. A special joint admis­sion fee is offered.

For additional information or reservations, write: “Ger­mans, Generals, and Gentle­men,” Germantown Historical Society, 5501 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144; or telephone (215) 844-0514.

 

Made To Remember

An important traveling exhibition entitled “Made to Remember: American Com­memorative Quilts” will be on view through Sunday, March 8, 1992, at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford. The exhibit features twenty-nine quilts that repre­sent a wide variety of geo­graphic regions throughout the United States. Many exam­ples date from the mid­-nineteenth century.

Quilts showcased in “Made to Remember: American Com­memorative Quilts” document many significant events, some affecting individuals, families, and communities, and others affecting the entire nation. Often families strengthened bonds through the gift of a quilt to commemorate a mar­riage or baptism; others were made as a remembrance to soldiers leaving home to take part in war. While quilts fre­quently were embroidered with a family tree (including children who had died), some memorialized important events and figures in American history, such as the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s elec­tion to the presidency in 1860.

The quilts on exhibit in­clude a fund-raising quilt made in Terre Haute, Indiana, with more than a thousand signatures embroidered with red thread on white muslin; a genealogy quilt from Hunt County, Texas, made from flour sacks and odd fabrics; an album quilt from Cecil County, Maryland, whose blocks imi­tate the designs of scherensch­nitte (or cut paper); and exuberantly detailed and boldly colored crazy quilts from San Francisco and Louis­ville, Kentucky, marked by elaborate stitching and imag­ery.

Organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, the exhibition fea­tures quilts loaned by muse­ums, historical societies, and individuals throughout the country.

“Made to Remember: American Commemorative Quilts” is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

The Brandywine River Museum, located at the inter­section of U.S. route 1 and State Route 100, is open daily. Visiting hours are 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. There is a charge for admission.

Additional information is available by writing: Brandy­wine River Museum, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or by telephoning (215) 388-7601 or 459-1900.

 

Grunewald Exhibit

Gustav Grunewald (1805-1878) has attracted little recent attention in America’s art and history communities, but during his lifetime his paint­ings appeared each year in important exhibitions in major centers of culture. Trained at the prestigious Dresden Acad­emy, Grunewald studied un­der Caspar David Friedrich, one of the first artists to visu­ally express the mystical tenets of German nature philosophy. In 1831-at a time when the American Transcendentalists, like their European counter­parts, venerated the landscape as a source of moral and relig­ious significance – Grunewald immigrated to the Moravian community of Bethlehem in eastern Pennsylvania. For many years he taught at the Moravian Seminary.

Although Grunewald re­corded many views of the Bethlehem settlement, as well as its sister community in Winston-Salem, North Caro­lina, he was preoccupied with natural phenomena, particu­larly with Niagara Falls, which he is known to have depicted at least eleven times. Gustav Grunewald’s paintings of Niagara Falls in the 1830s and 1840s were his most ambitious undertakings in both theme and size; in fact, several can­vases measured more than ninety inches, by far the larg­est paintings of the waterfalls at the time.

Gustav Grunewald was deeply religious, and much like his contemporary painters he perceived art as a means for achieving harmony with nat­ure and, hence, with God­ – often characterized in nineteenth century America as the divine artist whose works were manifest in the seem­ingly endless variety of natural forms. Grunewald strove to represent this variety in his attention to detail in his depic­tions of both the landscape and its man-made features, details that were united by his spiritual response to the pano­rama before -and beyond – him.

Grunewald lived in Bethle­hem, but he was by no means an isolated provincial. From 1836 to 1864, he exhibited regularly in annual exhibitions in Philadelphia and New York. The acceptance in these major exhibitions of the art of a painter trained by Caspar David Friedrich, the preemi­nent German Romantic, sug­gests that German painting conventions played a much larger role in the formation of an American school than is generally acknowledged.

On Sunday, March 15, 1992, the Allentown Art Museum will bring to light – for the first time – the work of this impor­tant American painter by opening a landmark exhibition entitled simply “Gustav Grunewald.” More than sixty drawings and paintings will document the presence of the German Romantic painter and his role in the development of American art. The exhibition will allow visitors to make comparisons between Grune­wald’s treatment of European and American subjects. Of particular interest in his Amer­ican paintings is the frequent inclusion of images of early trains, as well as his use of photographic sources in a series of distinctive paintings of Bethlehem in the 1860s.

“Gustav Grunewald” will be presented as part of the Allentown Art Museum’s “Discover America,” a series of programs and exhibitions celebrating centuries of achievements in American art, and examining the contribu­tions of Pennsylvania artists to the country’s artistic heritage. The exhibition also salutes the two hundred and fiftieth anni­versary of the founding of Bethlehem and the Moravian community.

“Gustav Grunewald” will continue through Sunday, June 21 [1992].

The Allentown Art Mu­seum is located on Fifth Street, between Linden and Hamilton streets, in center-city Allen­town. Visiting hours are: Tues­day through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P.M. There is an admission charge.

For additional information about “Gustav Grunewald” and related programs, write: Allentown Museum of Art, Fifth and Court Sts., P.O. Box 388, Allentown, PA 18105-0388; or telephone (215) 432-4333.

 

Changing Visions

From the unspoiled gran­deur of nineteenth century wilderness to the environmen­tal destruction of today, “Changing Visions of the American Landscape;’ on view at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, sur­veys traditional and contempo­rary landscape photography. The exhibition of more than seventy works by important national photographers con­trasts three great masters of landscape portraiture – Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins, and Edward Weston – with a group of younger photographers whose visions have been more directly affected by contempo­rary environmental concerns.

Internationally renowned photographer Ansel Adams and his followers tended to be idealists, portraying nature as a higher, transcendental reality that in its very beauty invited a not-so-favorable comparison with the man-made world. During the last two decades, a younger generation of artists has devoted itself to showing their viewers what the natural world in the late twentieth century has become. While traditional photographers consciously avoid any evi­dence of human influence in their work, contemporary artists, such as Robert Adams, Richard Misrach, Emmet Go­win, and John Pfahl, have deliberately sought out places where man and nature meet. Their pictures include random interruptions that one usually finds in even the most remote corners of the landscape: roads, telephone poles, bill­boards, bridges, graffiti – even the occasional nuclear power plant and toxic waste dump.

Spanning more than a century of work, “Changing Visions of the American Land­scape” confronts exhibition visitors with mankind’s symbi­otic relationship with its planet-the earth continually responds to the activities of its inhabitants with an unfaltering rhythm. Although the exhibit, as its title implies, is a survey of traditional and contempo­rary landscape photography, it is also, in a sense, about poli­tics. Unlike more abstract art forms, the landscape photo­graph is rooted in a place: the “land” in a general sense and also, usually, a specific, recog­nizable location such as Niag­ara Falls or Yosemite Park. It is truly about that place and its character, spirit, and appear­ance. The landscape photo­graph, unlike a painting or drawing, often becomes a symbol of both its actual sub­ject and the natural world in general, and is inextricably bound up with the controver­sies and conflicts that sur­round the land and its use.

Over the course of time, scholars have reduced the politics of nature to a simple question: “Should it be saved, or should it be used?” Histori­cally, photographers have allied themselves with conser­vationists, even though in the early days landscape photog­raphers were often employed by government agencies and farsighted companies intent on opening and developing the frontier. The wide dissemina­tion of images by Carleton Watkins and pioneer land­scape artists helped generate enormous excitement about the glories of the frontier, encouraging the waves of migration that rapidly began to destroy the very wilderness they were celebrating.

By the time Ansel Adams emerged on the scene in the 1920s and 1930s, he and many others were already becoming concerned about the degrada­tion of nature. Adams, by far the best known exponent of traditional landscape photog­raphy, defined the genre more than any other artist. His work has become regarded as the archetype of nature pristine and sacred.

“Changing Visions of the American Landscape” also features works by Margot Balboni, Lois Conner, Len Jenshel, Mark Klett, and Ray Mortenson. Many of the pho­tographs have been lent espe­cially for this exhibit by the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, commercial galleries, and private collections.

Accompanied by an exhibi­tion catalogue, “Changing Visions of the American Land­scape” remain. on view through Sunday, March 22 [1992].

Visiting hours at the James A. Michener Art Museum are: Tuesday through Friday, 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.; Saturday and Sunday, from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Admission is charged.

Additional information may be obtained by writing: James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901-4626; or by telephon­ing (215) 340-9800.

 

Discovering America

“Discovering America: The Peopling of Pennsylvania,” a major cooperative initiative between The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, and the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Philadelphia, exam­ines the diversity of the rich ethnic experience in the Key­stone State. On view through June 30, 1992, at The State Museum, the exhibition will be installed at the Balch Institute for a five year stay.

In creating this important exhibition, researchers and curators were concerned with the ways in. which ethnicity shaped Pennsylvania’s experi­ence, rather than merely pre­senting a categorical recitation of the experiences of each nationality. “Discovering America: The Peopling of Pennsylvania” focuses more on the initial appearance and early adjustment of a group than on its subsequent history. The exhibition’s real signifi­cance is that it demonstrates the diversity of the people who have, together, built a reasonably cohesive – although not homogeneous – society in. Pennsylvania. It also explores assimilation, the inherited traditions that ethnic and religious groups bring to a new land, and the ways by which each group measures personal success and a good life. Within the framework of the exhibit, visitors are given the opportu­nity to see that diversity some­times fosters intolerance, and that religious, racial, and eth­nic discrimination must be dealt with through sensitively negotiating the distance be­tween historic ideals and everyday practices.

The stories of Pennsylva­nia’s ethnic experiences are recounted in several thematic segments, including “The First Americans, 1000-1750,” “Agrar­ians and Artisans, 1680-1920,” “Networks Across Pennsylva­nia, 1830-1890,” “Titan of In­dustry, 1870-1940,” “The Industrial Metropolis, 1880- 1945,” and “Post-Industrial Pennsylvania, 1945-1990.” The galleries in which these sub­jects are addressed flow to­gether, encouraging visitors to tour themes in order of per­sonal choice.

The exhibition’s displays and text are rich in facts and materials, employing artifacts and objects drawn from the extensive collections of The State Museum and the Balch Institute. Native Americans, such as the Lenape and the Susquehannock, are depicted in an uncluttered Pennsylvania.

“Discovering America: The Peopling of Pennsylvania” offers visitors a special oppor­tunity to take an intensely personal look at their back­grounds through an educa­tional brochure, “Discover the People in Your Past,” which accompanies the exhibit. The brochure also provides a brief summary of topics and a gal­lery guide.

The State Museum of Penn­sylvania, located at Third and North streets in downtown Harrisburg, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; and Sunday, from Noon to 5 P.M. Admission is free.

To obtain additional infor­mation about “Discovering America: The Peopling of Pennsylvania” and ongoing activities, write: The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 787-4979.