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.

Pippin

“I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin,” the largest and most comprehensive retrospective exhibition of the work of this important African American artist and preemi­nent self-taught painter, will begin its national tour at the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia on Friday, January 21, 1994. This exhibition will present a body of work by a uniquely American artist, called in his own day “one of the most original painters ever discov­ered.”

“I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin” will feature nearly one hundred of the artist’s paintings, drawings, and burnt-wood panels­ – three-quarters of his known one hundred and thirty-six works – many of which have not been shown since his death in 1946. His work has been characterized as a window into the beauty of everyday family life, the mysticism of religion, and the brutality of war. Pippin reflects the American spirit in intimate interiors, vibrant still lifes, compelling portraits, and landscapes of rural Pennsylvania.

Born in 1888, Horace Pippin was one of the few African Americans permitted to fight in World War I. Wounded in combat, he returned to West Chester, Chester County, where he taught himself to paint to strengthen his injured arm. The grandson of slaves, he chose as subject matter themes of war, religion, American history, and domestic life. Within five years, he developed a unique, highly personalized style that won him national recognition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as well as the support of critic Christian Brinton, dealer Robert Carlen, artist Newell Convers Wyeth, and controversial Main Line collector Albert C. Barnes, founder of the Barnes Collec­tion in Merion. By the time of his death of a stroke at the age of fifty-eight – only eight years after his debut at the Museum of Modern Art in a group show in 1938 – Pippin’s paintings and burnt-wood panels had been acquired by major public and private collections on both the East and West coasts.

On view at the Pennsylva­nia Academy of the Fine Arts through Sunday, April 17 [1994], “I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin” will feature works of art especially loaned for the exhibition and national tour by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Following its Philadelphia debut, the exhibition will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago (April 30-July 10 [1994]), the Cincinnati Art Museum (July 28-October 9 [1994]), the Baltimore Museum of Art (October 26-January 1, 1995), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (February 1-April 30, 1995).

Pennsylvania Academy curator Judith E. Stein, who organized the landmark exhibit, authored the keystone essay of a liberally illustrated catalogue which will accompany the exhibition. (A full­-length feature article on Pippin by Stein will appear in the spring 1994 edition of Pennsyl­vania Heritage.)

Special programs spon­sored by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in conjunction with “I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin” will include a video presentation, guided tours, “hands-on” activities, family programs, gallery demonstra­tions, films, and lectures.

Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 5 P. M.; and Sunday, 11 A. M. to 5 P. M. There is a charge for admission.

Additional information may be obtained by writing: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or by telephoning (215) 972-7600.

 

Flood!

The catastrophic flooding of the Midwest during summer 1993 recalled for many students of Pennsylvania history the Johnstown Flood of 1889, characterized for a century as “the most infamous natural disaster in American history.”

A private lake (used as an exclusive resort by a group of wealthy Pittsburghers), swollen by torrential rains, burst a neglected earthen dam fourteen miles above Johnstown, Cambria County. A towering wall of water – ­measuring at least forty feet high by most accounts­ – smashed the city on Friday, May 31, 1889, at 4:10 P. M., virtually obliterating it. In one terrifying moment, more than two thousand lives were lost, and the flood earned an infamous place in history (see “A One Night Stand to Remember – Or to Forget” by John L. Marsh in the spring 1989 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage).

Before the South Fork Dam broke and it was crushed by more than twenty million tons of water – equivalent to the volume that rushes over Niagara Falls in thirty-six minutes – Johnstown was a thriving industrial community of thirty thousand residents. Set in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, the town was founded in 1794 by Joseph Schantz, a Swiss pioneer”. Little more than a frontier outpost in 1800, Johnstown grew rapidly beginning in the 1830s, when it became an important link in the Commonwealth’s canal and railroad systems. With the establishment of the Cambria Iron Works, Johnstown experienced tremendous growth; by 1870, its steel production had outstripped that of nearby Pittsburgh. Johnstown not only was a center for production, but many of the steel industry’s greatest advances were pioneered by its companies and plants.

As much as it epitomized the average American city of the Industrial Revolution, Johnstown also typified the ethnic diversity of prosperous manufacturing centers of the second half of the nineteenth century. Near its steel mills, small groups of Polish, Lithuanian, and Slavic immigrants settled. They were followed by waves of immi­grants who sought out Johnstown for employment with its iron and steel compa­nies. Each ethnic group established its own churches, social clubs, even neighbor­hoods, which contributed to Johnstown’s colorful history and heritage. And it was these courageous immigrants, in search of a new beginning in the fabled country of opportu­nities, whose lives and dreams were shattered by the 1889 flood.

The Johnstown Flood was, indeed, catastrophic. Its tragedy was gruesome. Its toll was epic.

Flood lines were found as high as eighty-nine feet above river level. Twenty-two hundred people died in ten minutes. Ninety-nine entire families were lost. Nearly four hundred children under the age of ten died. Sixteen hundred homes and three hundred businesses were destroyed. Four square miles of Johnstown were completely leveled. Locomotives, each weighing nearly two hundred thousand pounds, were lifted up and carried several thousand feet by the torrent. Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio, and as late as 1911.

Across the country, public interest in the disaster ran high. For nine consecutive days, news of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 filled the front pages of the New York Times and the New York Daily Gazette sold seventy-five thousand extra copies each day. Clara Barton arrived in Johnstown the Wednesday following the flood with fifty men and women of the newly organized American Red Cross.

The story of this natural disaster is being recounted, in both changing and permanent exhibits, by the Johnstown Flood Museum. The museum chronicles the shocking episode through photographs, prints, artifacts, and original documents. State-of-the-art exhibits, including a huge relief map with fiber optic animation and sound effects, retell the saga of the tragedy. Each hour, the museum features the Academy Award­-winning film The Johnstown Flood, by acclaimed movie­maker Charles Guggenheim, which introduces viewers to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club and to the destruction its four hundred and fifty acre lake wreaked on the residents of Johnstown, a little more than a dozen miles down river.

The Johnstown Flood Museum is housed, ironically, in a library given to the city in 1892 by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, himself a member of the very fishing and hunting club that failed to maintain the dam which destroyed Johnstown. The museum is administered by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

For additional information regarding visiting hours and temporary exhibitions, write: Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St., Johnstown, PA 15901; or telephone (814) 539-1889.

 

A Home Well Made

During the nineteenth century, a woman’s home was a reflection of her place in society. For one century, spanning from about 1830 to 1930, women’s roles centered around the home, and their responsibilities included tasks as mother, seamstress, medical practitioner, housekeeper, cook, interior decorator, hostess, educator, and farmer.

Emphasizing the impor­tance of “a home well made” to women of the nineteenth century in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh County Historical Society in Allentown has mounted an exhibition examining the various roles of women in the home. Aptly entitled “A Home Well Made,” the exhibition explores the effects of industri­alization and urbanization on traditional women’s roles, and analyzes the social importance attached to maintaining a proper household.

“A Home Well Made” showcases objects and artifacts drawn from the permanent collections of the Lehigh County Historical Society. In preparing this exhibit, histori­cal society staff members researched vintage household manuals, women’s magazines, etiquette books, and cook­books. Many of these household guidebooks addressed the middle class, emerging as a part – and as a result – of the Industrial Revolution. At the time, concrete rules were developed for social manners and the keeping of one’s home to distinguish the middle class from the ranks of the poor. As industrialization and urbaniza­tion took hold, a distinction was drawn between the workplace and the home, increasing women’s domestic responsibilities.

“A Home Well Made” will remain on exhibit through Sunday, March 6, 1994.

Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 4 P. M.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 P. M. There is no charge for admission.

To obtain additional information, write: Lehigh County Historical Society, Old Courthouse, Hamilton and Fifth Sts., Allentown, PA 18101; or telephone (215) 435-4664.

 

George Hetzel at Scalp Level

George Hetzel (1826-1899) is western Pennsylvania’s most prominent artist of the second half of the nineteenth century. Born in Alsace, France, he was brought by his family to the Pittsburgh area when he was two years old. His parents encouraged his natural artistic talents and young George Hetzel received his rudimen­tary artistic start as an apprentice to a house and sign painter. He was among the first American artists to travel to Dusseldorf to study at the acclaimed German academy. Hetzel financed his two years of study at Dusseldorf, from 1847 to 1849, by painting interior decorations for the old Western Penitentiary and for several cafes and river boats in and around Pittsburgh.

Not long after his return to Pittsburgh from Europe in 1849, George Hetzel painted portraits of his parents that revealed his facility with the precise, realistic style for which the Dusseldorf Acad­emy was then famous. It was inevitable that he soon achieved a reputation as Pittsburgh’s leading painter.

George Hetzel continued to execute portraits and still lifes throughout his career, but by the late 1850s he had begun concentrating on landscapes of western Pennsylvania. In the late 1860s, he led an exodus to Scalp Level, a mountain retreat near Johnstown, where he completed many of his finest works. At Scalp Level, he painted with a congenial group of Pittsburgh artists­ – including A. F. King, Clarence Johns, and J. R. Woodwell – in much the same way as did their French contemporaries at Barbizon. The area eventually became a virtual summer colony for southwestern Pennsylvania’s artists.

Hetzel’s large yet quiet and intimate views of nature sold almost as quickly as they were painted. His detailed landscapes of the 1860s, emphasiz­ing textures and reflected light, gave way during the next decade to a freer style of brushwork. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the artist’s style revealed a growing interest in depicting the landscape in terms of light as a response to the impres­sionist movement. One such painting, Paint Creek Road, a view down a wooded, country road at Scalp Level, illustrates his ability to suggest warm sunlight and atmosphere with a delicate touch of bright color.

George Hetzel was the only Pittsburgh artist represented at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In 1893, he sent three paintings to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and three years later he participated in the first Carnegie International. He taught at the Pittsburgh School of Design for Women (see “Pittsburgh’s Designing Women” by Britta C. Dwyer in the winter 1991 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage) from its inception in 1865 and fre­quently took his students to the country to pa.int from nature.

Hetzel spent his final years at a farmhouse in Somerset, to which he had moved his family in 1897. He maintained his preeminence as an artist until his death in 1899. The Carnegie Institute presented a major retrospective exhibition of Hetzel’s work in 1909, recognizing him as one of the Keystone State’s most signifi­cant artists.

On Saturday, March 26, 1994, the Westmoreland Museum of Art in Greensburg will open an exhibition entitled “George Hetzel and the Scalp Level Tradition” to examine the subject’s life, work, and the environment in which he flourished. The exhibition will analyze Hetzel’s painting style, from his early academy days in Europe to his final years as a mentor at Scalp Level. In addition to examining his Scalp Level years, the exhibi­tion will probe his role as teacher, his taste as collector, and his influence as Pittsburgh’s most famous portrait painter for several decades.

“George Hetzel and the Scalp Level Tradition” will remain on view though Sunday, May 8 [1994].

Visiting hours at the Westmoreland Museum of Art are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 5 P. M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P. M. Admission is free.

To obtain additional information, write: Westmoreland Museum of Art, 221 North Main St., Greensburg, PA 15601-1898; or telephone (412) 837-1500.

 

Treasures Revealed

The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses one of the largest and most important collections of European art in any museum in the world, occupy­ing well more than one-third of the building’s permanent exhibition space in at least eighty galleries and period rooms.

In 1876, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was chartered with a goal of establishing a museum of art in all its branches and technical appli­cations: paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings, furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, costume and textiles, and architectural settings. The museum’s distinguished collection of European paintings now numbers nearly eight hundred and fifty works, particularly strong in seven­teenth century Dutch landscape and genre scenes, English portraits and land­scapes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and nineteenth century French painting. Among its many celebrated individual works are Prometheus Bound by Peter Paul Rubens, The Birth of Venus by Nicholas Poussin, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by J. M. W. Turner, and At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The museum’s extensive collection of European decorative arts and sculpture comprises thousands of objects dating from 1200 to the present, ranging from Ro­manesque and Gothic sculpture to Sevres porcelain, English silver, and an entire eighteenth century French rococo salon. The balance between works in all media and their juxtaposi­tion with period interiors and large-scale architectural elements is carried out to a degree which is unique in an American art museum. This plan was first implemented by Fiske Kimball, the innovative and energetic architectural historian who served as museum director from 1925 to 1955. “The whole pageant of the history of civilization and of art,” Kimball wrote, “is spread before the visitor, who may travel at ease through space and through time.” His vision is reflected in the dramatic sequence of rooms and galleries of the museum’s second floor.

Currently underway is the complete reinstallation of these holdings in chronological order, the largest and most complex project of its kind ever undertaken by the institution. The reinstallation project, scheduled for comple­tion in 1995, calls for sections of the museum to be closed, in sequence, as objects are relocated so galleries can undergo construction. The galleries in each section will be reconfigured as necessary, repainted, and relit, taking advantage of natural light wherever possible. One major component of this project is the replacement of obsolete gallery lighting systems with new elements that are as faithful as possible to the bold designs of Fiske Kimball and the character of the museum building with its extended rows of tan windows. Many of the more than one thousand objects and works of art relocated during the course of the project will be cleaned and conserved by a team of conservators.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently reopened the first stage of the reinstallation of its permanent collection of European art, the Medieval and Early Renaissance galleries. The museum’s early European collection, compris­ing outstanding architectural settings – a Romanesque church facade and a cloister, a Gothic chapel and wood­-paneled domestic interior – together with sculpture, tapestries, stained glass and decorative arts, are justifiably celebrated. Lacking in its former installation, however, was the extraordinarily rich overview of Italian and Northern painting afforded by the museum’s prized John G. Johnson Collection, long displayed in a separate location on the other side of the building and one floor below.

In 1917, John G. Johnson, a prominent corporation lawyer, bequeathed to the City of Philadelphia one of the most important and extensive holdings of European paint­ings in the United States. The collection – numbering nearly thirteen hundred works of art, from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries – was deposited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1933. Under the terms of an agreement approved by the Court of Common Pleas in the 1950s, the Johnson Collection was installed in a single block of large galleries separate from the museum’s own holdings. A recent court decision allows sections of this collection to be juxtaposed with other museum holdings, allowing visitors, for the first time, a spectacular opportunity to more fully appreciate and understand the works of art produced in Europe between 1200 and 1900.

Twenty-five galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art now present four hundred works of art dating from 1100 to 1530, including paintings, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts representing the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods. The reinstallation also gave the museum the opportunity to painstakingly examine and conserve one of the country’s foremost carpet collections and to develop a new state-of-the-­art installation method for the safe, long-term display of some of its finest large-scale carpets, such as a rare fifteenth century Spanish armorial carpet and a suite of spectacu­lar “Dragon Carpets.”

Along one side of the Medieval and Early Renais­sance wing a series of galleries devoted to paintings drawn from the John G. Johnson Collection presents the evolution of Italian painting, including works by Pietro Lorenzetti, Fra Angelico, and Botticelli. The history of Northern European painting unfolds on the opposite side, concluding with a paneled “treasury” gallery containing works by Jan van Eyck, Gerard David, and Dirk Bouts. This impressive array of paintings, many of them portraits, fills the galleries with images of the citizens and clerics of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, and lends a profound and Lively sense of context to related objects of view. Religious sculpture, reliquar­ies, liturgical objects, and illuminated manuscripts are now clustered within and around a Gothic chapel, while furniture and metalwork are shown to advantage in a more domestic setting. The visual and stylistic culmination of the reinstalled wing is Roger van der Weyden’s recently conserved diptych, The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John (circa 1450-1460), centrally placed at the end of the section in the grand gallery hung with carpets and installed with altarpieces from Italy, France, and Spain, celebrating the convergence of diverse cultures and artistic movements.

Subsequent phases of the reinstallation will lead visitors from the Medieval and Gothic galleries on the second floor across the Great Stair Hall into Renaissance and Baroque Europe. The museum’s splendid seventeenth century Dutch paintings from the Johnson Collection will be shown adjacent to its fine seventeenth century room from Haarlem, with its ceramic tiles and carved furniture. These galleries will flow, in turn, into spaces with objects representing international crosscurrents that characterize eighteenth century artistic expression in Europe, culmi­nating in an exhibit of paintings and decorative arts of the early nineteenth century, both neoclassical and romantic, some of which have not been on view for many years. The first floor, where the John G. Johnson Collection has been located, will be entirely rearranged to offer a survey of later nineteenth century sculpture, decorative arts, and painting, ranging from the “official” art of the salons to the work of impressionist and post-impressionist artists. Masterpieces by Renoir, Van Gogh, Manet, and Cezanne will form a logical and grand culmination of this section as visitors turn to enter the twentieth century galleries beyond.

A number of special programs, including lectures and concerts, celebrating the opening of the reinstalled Medieval and Early Renais­sance Galleries are planned through spring 1994.

For additional information, write: Philadelphia Museum of Art, P. O. Box 7646, Philadel­phia, PA 19101; or telephone (215) 684-8100 or 684-7860. There is an admission charge.

 

Gone Fishin’

The State Museum of Pennsylvania has recently acquired an important collection of fly fishing tackle and related books, including several nineteenth century rods produced by significant Pennsylvania makers. The collection is a bequest of Jack B. Eschenmann, a lifelong resident of Shippensburg, Cumberland County, who died in November 1992 at the age of seventy-three.

An avid outdoorsman, Eschenmann was a member of the Shippensburg Fish and Game Association, Harrisburg Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited, and various sportsmen’s organizations. He collected materials related to his most passionate pastime, fly fishing, and had assembled an impres­sive collection of fly rods, flies, ephemera, and books during his lifetime. Many of the objects and publications he had acquired related specifically to fly fishing in the Commonwealth; he recog­nized the significance of these objects and artifacts and bequeathed them to The State Museum.

Among the objects given to the museum is a selection of twelve fly rods made by Pennsylvania rod-builders. Rare nineteenth century examples include a solid wooden rod made by Burgess of Norristown, a “Centennial Medal 1876” rod of Calcutta cane crafted by A. B. Shipley of Philadelphia, and a prized nine-strip, split bamboo rod made by John Krider of Philadelphia. In addition to the vintage and antique rods, the museum received several twentieth century rods custom-made by upstate craftsmen of Potter County and the Pocono Mountains region. Eschenmann also bequeathed to The State Museum a grouping of thirteen fly rods used by Pennsylvania anglers, includ­ing an exquisite Leonard rod, circa 1890, originally presented to a Philadelphia physician, and an Orvis Battenkill rod which belonged to Ed Koch, author of Fishing the Midge.

Eschenmann’s gift includes a “hoop net,” used to trap spawning shad and eel in the Susquehanna River, and approximately one hundred and thirty flies tied by Penn­sylvanians, including a number of meticulously detailed patterns made by such prominent anglers as George Harvey, State College, who tied flies for – and fished with – Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Vince Marinaro, Charles K. Fox, and Ed Shenk, who together revolutionized fly fishing on the limestone streams of the Cumberland Valley. Books in Eschenmann’s collection include seventeen written by Pennsylvanians, ranging from the classic The American Angler’s Book, authored by Philadelphian Thaddeus Norris in 1864, to a signed edition of Marinaro’s A Modern Dry-Fly Code, pub­lished in 1951.

The Jack B. Eschenmann gift is the most significant acquisition of fishing objects The State Museum of Pennsyl­vania has received to date. The collection is especially impor­tant because it contains many artifacts associated with individuals who have written about and have fished central Pennsylvania’s famous trout streams. A number of objects from this collection will be showcased in an exhibition at The State Museum which will explore the history of fishing in the Commonwealth. The exhibition will open in spring 1996, accompanied by a copiously illustrated article in Pennsylvania Heritage.

For more details, write: The State Museum of Pennsylva­nia, P. O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 783-9899.