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.

Hat’s Off!

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will celebrate the art and craft of twentieth century millinery in the first major survey of its kind ever to be mounted in the United States. “Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the Twentieth Century” will open on Saturday, August 21 [1993], and continue through Sunday, November 28 [1993]. The exhibition will showcase one hundred of the museum’s most spectacu­lar hats, supplemented by an equal number borrowed from the costume collections of leading museums throughout the country and prestigious private collections.

Ornamenting the human form is among the world’s oldest outlets for artistic expression. Within the realm of modern fashion, no single article of clothing has inspired so much variety and innova­tion as the hat. Some of the most enduring images of the milliner are those painted by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Edouard Manet (1832-1883), and Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) from the 1870s through the 1880s. Although today these paintings are seen as glimpses of young women at work, making and selling pretty hats, to the artists’ contemporaries, a second profession was also implied: that of the prostitute. Because of the seasonal nature of millinery and its low wages, it was understood that many of the lower class women in London and Paris who worked as milliners were forced by limited alternatives to supplement their meager incomes with occasional prostitution. Indeed, millinery shops were frequently used as a cover for such illicit activities.

Although the economic realities of intermittent work and low pay remained much the same, by the first decades of the twentieth century millinery had become one of a growing number of acceptable employment opportunities for young women as they joined the work force in increasing numbers. By 1904, The Lady’s Choice, an English magazine, was able to recommend millinery – along with the operation of a tearoom, secretarial work, and sanitary inspecting, among others – as a respectable career choice for “gentlewomen,” especially for those who needed to supple­ment limited incomes.

Millinery’s poor wages and uncertain working conditions prompted a series of investiga­tions of the industry between 1909 and 1917, carried out in Pittsburgh (1909), London (1910), Philadelphia and Boston (1916), and New York (1917). These studies focused on the women working in the milli­nery industry, highlighting the problems of unemployment and irregular work. As a result of the conditions these studies revealed, millinery became one of the first trades chosen for experiments in industrial education.

The industry’s situation was regarded as particularly urgent since it was a major employer of women in each of the cities studied and because it was constantly threatened by changes in fashion. By the first decade of this century, only two of millinery’s four seasons were left: the winter and summer seasons disappeared because of customers’ chang­ing lifestyles and buying habits, including the summer exodus from city to country, the vogue for smaller hats to wear in automobiles, and the exclusion of hats from theaters and opera houses (where they were not infrequently out­lawed by local ordinances because they blocked the view of the stage).

“Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the Twentieth Century” will feature the work of important and influential American, French, British, and Italian designers, including France’s Mme. Georgette (best known for her fanciful turn-of-the­-century creations); America’s “Big Three,” Lily Dache, Mr. John, and Sally Victor; and the innovative couturiers Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Halston. The hats will be displayed in a series of “shop windows” decorated in the spirit of the eras.

Perhaps best known for her creations for Hollywood’s leading ladies, Lily Dache counted among her clients actresses Sonja Henie, Audrey Hepburn, Carole Lombard, and Marlene Dietrich. Dache was part of a group of milli­ners who were better known at the time than dress designers. They included John Frederics, Walter Florell, Laddie North ridge, and Sally Victor. About Dache’s contemporary, Mr. John, it was once said, “Make a list of any one hundred rich, powerful, impossible, beautiful women, and you’ll find that Mr. John has made hats for at least ninety-five of them!” Known for years as the “Emperor of Fashion,” Mr. John made great copy for fashion and style editors. “A hat is the most dangerous thing in the world,” he once remarked, “because it shows what you are. If you’re a damned fool, then you put on a cockeyed hat. If you’re a lady, you put on a lady’s hat. It’s a poetic thing. A dress you can overcome. But you can’t overcome a hat, because that’s all you have, a face.”

“Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the Twentieth Century” opens with extravagant hats created in Paris at the turn of the century. Other installations will showcase hats trimmed with everything from feathers and birds, and beads and jewels, to flowers, fruits, and even vegetables. The exhibi­tion will explore the materials, including felt and straw, and the shaping and construction methods, such as blocking and traditional dressmaking and tailoring techniques, that form the foundation of twentieth century millinery.

Influences on women’s hat design will be shown to be wide-ranging and reflective of their era. During World War I and World War 11, for instance, millinery not only imitated military styles and expressed patriotic or anti-war senti­ments, but also found relief in whimsy as exemplified by the tiny, doll-sized hats of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Among other sources of inspiration for headgear are the movies, men’s hat styles, non-Western and European folk material, art, and architecture, and the aesthetics of the space age.

“Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the Twentieth Century” will conclude with a gallery devoted to work by more than two dozen of today’s most creative millinery designers, artists, and craftspersons from throughout the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. These hats range from creations based in the historic traditions of millinery to those that literally push design to its limits, with many one-of-a-kind works designed ,especially for this exhibition.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a double issue of the museum’s Bulletin, illustrated with eighty color plates.

For additional information, write: Philadelphia Museum of Art, P. O. Box 7646, Philadel­phia, PA l9101; or telephone (215)684-763-8100 or 684-7860.

 

Ansel Adams in Allentown

Nearly fifty black and white photographs by Ansel Adams (1902-1984), one of the country’s most beloved and admired landscape photographers, are on view at the Allentown Art Museum through Sunday, September 26 [1993].

“Ansel Adams: The American Wilderness” celebrates the environmental immediacy of the artist’s photographic legacy, ranging from depictions of Yosemite in California to images of Acadia National Park in Maine. The mountains, valleys, meadows, and rivers of America’s national parks and forests are portrayed not merely as vacation spots, but as cathe­drals of life. Adams’ photographic art bears eloquent testimony to the beauty of the remaining American wilderness and the absolute necessity that it survive unscathed.

Ansel Adams was an environmentalist as well as an artist, and his photographs have been described as a “call to arms in defense of the earth.” Adams himself was eloquent in his defense of the endangered environment, summarizing his beliefs in the sacred importance of un­spoiled wilderness in 1967.

You must have certain noble areas of the world left in as close­-to-primal condition as possible. You must have quietness and a certain amount of solitude. You must be able to touch the living rock, drink the pure waters, scan the great vistas, sleep under the stars, and awaken to the cool dawn wind. Such experiences are the heritage of all people.

Selected from the Ansel Adams Archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, and aug­mented by loans from the collection of Virginia Adams, “Ansel Adams: The American Wilderness” features rarely seen images and vintage prints. On Wednesday, September 8 [1993], museum curators will offer a special guided tour of the exhibition at Noon. The tour is free with museum admission.

The Allentown Art Mu­seum is located on Fifth Street, between Hamilton and Linden streets, in center-city Allen­town. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 5 P. M.; and Sunday, 1to 5 P. M. Free admission is offered to the public on the first Saturday of the month.

Additional information is available by writing: Allentown Art Museum, P. O. Box 388, Allentown, PA 18105-1033; or by telephoning (215) 432-4333.

 

American Masterpieces

In an exclusive Delaware Valley showing, the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, will present a major exhibition of more than forty paintings drawn from the holdings of the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, one of the finest collec­tions of American art in the nation. The exhibition, aptly entitled “Selections from the Butler Institute of American Art,” will open on Saturday, September 11 [1993], and continue through Sunday, November 21 [1993]. The exhibition will show­case masterpieces of American realist painting from the nineteenth through mid­-twentieth centuries.

Highlighting this extraordi­nary selection of American art will be Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip (1872), one of the artist’s most celebrated oil paintings and perhaps the most famous work in the Butler Institute’s collection. Also on exhibit will be Albert Bierstadt’s The American Trail (1869), an expansive oil painting depicting the gran­deur of the western frontier; John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Knowles and Her Children (1902), a masterful portrait of a prominent English family depicted in Sargent’s familiar painterly style; and The General Knox Mansion (1941) by Andrew Wyeth, an early landscape never before exhibited in Chadds Ford.

Among the American masters represented in “Selections from the Butler Institute of American Art” will be George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Frederick Edwin Church, Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, George Inness, Jacob Lawrence, Fitz Hugh Lane, Georgia O’Keefe, Ben Shahn, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

In exchange for this exhibit, the Brandywine River Mu­seum will lend more than forty significant paintings from its collection of works of art spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the Butler Institute. Founded it, 1919, the Butler Institute of American Art was led by the vision of Joseph G. Butler, Jr., a successful industrialist and philanthropist. Butler’s desire to create an institution devoted strictly to the collection and exhibition of fine American art has remained the guiding force behind the institution’s outstanding collection, currently numbering more than ten thousand works of art and related objects.

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

For additional details and traveling directions, write: Brandywine River Museum, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (215) 459-1900 or 388-7601.

 

In Flight

“Bird Sculptures in Wood by Grainger McKoy” is currently on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford. The exhibition features twenty-eight works by the renowned American sculptor, ranging from small, intimate depictions of a single nesting bird to large-scale renderings of birds bursting into flight. This exhibition is the first showing of McKoy’s work in the Delaware Valley.

Grainger McKoy’s sculp­ture dearly takes bird carving from the realm of craft to art. While presenting highly realistic renderings of specific species at rest or in flight, McKoy’s works test the artistic and technical limitations of compositional form. McKoy’s innovative sculptural designs use space and implied move­ment to relate birds to their environment, creating com­plete, lifelike portraits of species rather than taxidermic depictions.

Critics contend that McKoy’s handling of bass­wood – used for its light weight and softness – is astounding. Works such as Carolina Parakeets and Sander­lings, standing seven and eight feet high, appear to defy gravity. The intricate balance is achieved by hollowing some of the birds to reduce their weight and then connecting them with a steel-ribbon understructure.

The artist’s interest in sculpture stems from his childhood, when hunting and bird carving were among his favorite pursuits. As a college student, his unusual ability attracted the attention of acclaimed bird sculptor Gilbert Maggioni. After attending Clemson University, where he studied both architecture and zoology, McKoy apprenticed with Maggioni. Together the master and the student perfected the use of individu­ally carved feathers which are inserted into the sculpture, enhancing the realistic appearance of the works.

Smaller works by McKoy are often quietly moving, while his larger creations are powerfully charged with emotion and drama. Plover in the Sand, for example, depicts a dead bird half buried in the sand. Fashioned from a single piece of wood, the work is, according to bird carver and writer James Kilgo, “an ironic commentary on the artist’s previous efforts to bring carved birds to life; when compared to the exuberant, ascending liveliness of Covey Rise, it gives new meaning to the term ‘still life.”‘

Grainger McKoy’s sculp­tures have been exhibited at numerous institutions and galleries throughout the East Coast, including the American Museum of Natural History, New York; Greenville Mu­seum of Art and the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Coe Kerr Gallery, New York; and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada. His works are included in several private and public collections, including the Gibbes Art Gallery and the Charleston Museum, both in Charleston, South Carolina; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; and the Ward Foundation Museum, Salisbury, Maryland.

Continuing through Monday, September 6 [1993], “Bird Sculptures in Wood by Grainger McKoy” was installed by the Brandywine River Museum to reiterate the Brandywine Conservancy’s dedication to the protection and preservation of the country’s cultural and natural resources. McKoy’s work celebrates the profound impact of nature on man and the inextricable relationship between the two.

“Bird Sculptures in Wood by Grainger McKoy” is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue.

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

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

 

Ancient Nubia

Africa’s diverse and sophisticated Nubian civiliza­tion, circa 3100 B. C. to A. D. 400, is the subject of a land­mark exhibition on view through Sunday, October 3 [1993], at the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropol­ogy in Philadelphia. More than three hundred rare artifacts and objects selected from the museum’s important Nubian collection help trace a thirty­-five hundred year history of Nubia, an ancient civilization that once flourished along the Nile River south of Egypt, and provide a new perspective on Nubia’s volatile relationship with Egypt.

“Ancient Nubia: Egypt’s Rival in Africa” places ancient Nubians and their civilization in a new historical context, offering visitors a compelling and fresh perspective on these little-known African peoples. Recent research suggests that large kingdoms arose in Nubia much earlier than scholars had previously believed. Over the centuries, Nubians and Egyptians competed for power and advantage throughout the vast Lower Nile region, from the Mediterranean Sea south to the sixth cataract on the great river in the Sudan. Powerful and centrally organized Nubians were truly Egypt’s rivals in Africa.

A wide variety of artifacts, including jewelry, ceramic vessels, statuary, and funerary inscriptions, illustrates the rise and fall of a series of Nubian kingdoms, the richness and variety of their indigenous cultures, and the complicated relationships they had with the pharaonic state of Egypt. These artifacts span a period of more than thirty-five hundred years, and were discovered in different regions of the culturally diverse Nubian civilization, which extended over more than eight hundred and fifty miles along the Nile Valley in what is today southern-most Egypt and the Sudan. Extraordinary eggshell­-thin painted wares, among the most delicate ceramics ever made, date to the Early Bronze Age (3100 B. C. to 2200 B. C.), and objects representative of the Middle Bronze Age (1800 B. C. to 1500 B. C.) include grave goods from the great royal cemetery at Kerma, the capital of an important Upper Nubian kingdom.

Objects from the Napatan­-Meroitic period of Nubian history (1000 8. C. to A. D. 400), with their highly distinctive style, are among the highlights of “Ancient Nubia: Egypt’s Rival in Africa.” Nubia was originally ruled from the city of Napata; later, Meroe became the capital. During this period, Nubia flourished as a powerful independent kingdom integrat­ing Nubian and Egyptian cultures. Funerary figurines of the Napatan and early Meroitic pharaohs, featured in the exhibition, are dearly derived from Egyptian models but are strongly Nubian in appearance.

Many of the Meroitic objects in the exhibition come from Karanog, a site of unique significance; materials from Karanog are now found only in Egypt’s Cairo Museum and Philadelphia’s University Museum. Karanog was the capital of a major Lower Nubian province of the vast Meroitic empire. No place like it has been excavated else­where in Nubia. The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropol­ogy examined the well-built settlement’s palace, home to its ruling princes, and a large cemetery where the princes and many others were buried. The cemetery provided a particularly rich assortment of objects, such as funerary statues (which depict a prince in his robes of state) and massive gold necklaces.

Pottery of the same period and locale, made by using varied techniques, was often decorated with animal motifs, such as birds, frogs, and giraffes, as well as with plant motifs, including grapes, palms, and acorns. Other vessels and objects of personal adornment were made of glass, bronze, inlaid wood, and faience.

Following the period of the Napatan-Meroitic pharaohs, indigenous Christian king­doms rose throughout Nubia, reigning for more than a thousand years, before Nubians’ conversion to Islam in the sixteenth century.

Artifacts featured in “An­cient Nubia: Egypt’s Rival in Africa” were drawn from the University Museum’s collection of more than seven thousand Nubian objects, one of the most important and extensive collections of ancient Nubian art and archaeology in the United States. The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropol­ogy was one of the major institutions involved in the salvage archaeology of ancient Nubian civilization that occurred at various times between 1890 and 1970, as the Egyptian government gradually transformed what had been Lower Nubia into a giant reservoir. Archaeologists excavated key sites and rescued threatened monuments before they were flooded.

Visiting hours at the University Museum are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 4:30 P. M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P. M. Admission is charged.

To obtain more informa­tion, write: University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Thirty-Third and Spruce Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19104; or telephone (215) 898-4000.

 

Conservatory Centennial

Steel magnate Henry Phipps (1839-1930) was, after his friend and partner Andrew Carnegie, not only one of Pittsburgh’s best known nineteenth century industrial­ists, but also one of the city’s most liberal philanthropists. Although he gave generously to Pittsburgh charities, he is perhaps best remembered for the great Phipps Conservatory located in Schenley Park.

In the late 1880s, Henry Phipps was living at Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road (then Irwin Avenue), when he offered money to the City of Allegheny to erect a conserva­tory in West Park, not far from his residence, on the site of the old Western Penitentiary that had been demolished in 1886. The rather elaborate glass house, designed by James Balph of Allegheny and opened in 1887, was for many years an attraction of the North Side until its demolition in the 1930s to make way for the present-day Pittsburgh Aviary.

On November 17, 1891, Phipps wrote to Pittsburgh’s mayor with an offer that seemed sensational.

If the City grants me permis­sion, I shall be very glad to erect a Conservatory in Schenley Park at a cost of say $100,000.

In the event of favorable action, my good friends, Messrs. E. M. Bigelow, Chief of the Department of Public Works, Oliver P. Scaife, and John Walker, have kindly consented to act as a committee to aid me in the matter and we shall endeavor to erect something that will provide a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people.

Less than two weeks later, the mayor presented Phipps’ proposal to city council with a recommendation that it be accepted. Council members unanimously approved the plan and the committee went vigorously to work. A firm specializing in the construction of greenhouses, Lord and Burnham of Irvington-on-the­-Hudson, New York, was retained to design and build the Conservatory. Construc­tion of the building began in August 1892 and was com­pleted the following August.

Upon its completion, the Phipps Conservatory was the largest in the entire United States. It boasted nine display houses of glass and metal, and imposing entrance buildings of stone in the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. The glittering complex had an exotic Oriental flavor, a virtual curiosity for even well­-traveled Pittsburghers.

The Phipps Conservatory, erected at a cost of one hundred and ten thousand dollars, was opened on Thursday, December 7, 1893, without ceremony. With the closing of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago the following year, the Conserva­tory acquired most of the World’s Fair’s rare plants, giving Pittsburgh the country’s finest horticultural showplace. Plant and species collections were obtained through donations and public subscrip­tions. Three years later Henry Phipps added three display houses at a cost of thirty thousand dollars. In 1900, the City of Pittsburgh built nine growing houses, which cost thirty-five thousand dollars.

This year the Phipps Conservatory is hosting a number of special events and activities to celebrate its centennial. The popular annual Fall Flower Show will be held from Saturday, September 18 [1993], through Monday, October 11 [1993]. The Winter Flower Show, which opens Friday, November 26 [1993], will run through January 8, 1994. “Phipps’ One Hundredth Birthday” will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 7 [1993], followed by the “Centennial Gala” on Friday, December 10 [1993].

To obtain a schedule of special centennial events, write: Phipps Conservatory, Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; or telephone (412) 622-6914 or 622-6206. There is a charge for admission.