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.

Beaux’s Art

Pennsylvania native Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) was one of the most important and successful portrait painters of her time (see “Artistic Ambitions: Cecilia Beaux in Philadelphia” by Tara Leigh Tappert in the winter 1996 edition). Among the significant commissions she completed in the early twentieth century was a portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt’s second wife Edith and their daughter Ethel, painted in the Red Room of the White House during a two-month period in 1902.

Throughout her career, the Philadelphia artist painted many portraits of women and children – like­nesses of female relatives and their children are among her best-known works. She accepted a number of commissions to paint profes­sional women, most notably the heads of Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and Smith Colleges.

Cecilia Beaux was raised by her maternal grandparents, who, like her own French-born father, had recently suffered a reversal of fortunes. She was, nevertheless, fortunate in many ways. Her family, consistent with their aristo­cratic and genteel background, possessed an appreciation of the arts, and early on, recognizing Beaux’s talent for drawing, provided her with artistic training. The family had a precedent for using – not merely acquiring – artistic skills; Beaux’s maiden aunt, Eliza Leavitt, supple­mented her income by giving music lessons, and a cousin, Catharine Ann Drinker, taught a class in perspective at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and maintained a studio where she gave private lessons.

The need to earn money compelled Cecilia Beaux as a teenager to practice her newly learned artistic skills by paint­ing china and copying photographs. Living in Philadelphia offered her access to professional art schools, to many accomplished individuals who gave private instruction, and to venues for exhibiting her work. In 1885 and 1887, Beaux won the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ coveted Mary Smith Prize, which gave her credibility and visibility.

Imbued with a competitive nature and desiring to perfect her skills, Beaux traveled to Paris in 1888 and enrolled in the prestigious Academie Julian. While abroad, she made herself known to a number of prominent French artists and to many American expatriate painters. Her entry in the Paris Salon of 1889, Les derniers jours d’enfance, was highlighted, further abetting Beaux’s professional advance­ment. Upon her return to the United States the following year, she became the first woman to teach full-time at the Pennsylvania Academy, garnering institutional support and further recognition of her artistic competence.

Many female artists of the late nineteenth century compiled an early biography not unlike Beaux’s. In con­trast to her career, theirs did not last a lifetime; nor did they, as she did in 1926, gain admission to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Why the difference?

Cecilia Beaux had ability, opportunity and, perhaps, most importantly, a sus­taining drive. She also chose to work in a genre-portraiture – that at the turn of the century guaranteed consistent patronage. She began by painting family and friends, but as her reputation grew she slowly moved up the social hierarchy, depicting after 1890 that upper-class world to which she saw herself belonging and to which both her private and official commissions admitted her.

By the opening decade of this century, she was one of the most highly sought­-after portraitists in America. She was known on both sides of the Atlantic for her bravura brushwork, lush color, and consummate ability to combine likeness and genre. Art critics frequently com­pared her “International Style” portraits to those of master painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). The flamboyant William Merritt Chase (1848-1916) said that not only was she “the greatest living woman painter, but the best that has ever lived.”

Beaux was awarded her last impor­tant commission in 1919 by the National Art Committee to depict the three leaders of World War I, including French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929). Five years later she fell on a Paris street, breaking her hip. The accident severely restricted her painting career and she began writing an autobiography, Background with Figures, published in 1930. The book inspired one of her last paintings, Dressing Dolls (1928), a poignant childhood memory of a young girl seated on a patterned sofa, with a doll at her side, attentively sewing a strip of cloth. Frequently recognized in the thirties for her contributions to the arts, Beaux was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1930 and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters three years later. In 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt honored Beaux as “the American woman who had made the greatest contribution to the culture of the world” when she presented her with the Chi Omega Fraternity’s National Achievement Gold Medal.

Cecilia Beaux died at her summer house, “Green Alley” in Gloucester, Massachusetts, at the age of eighty­-seven on September 17, 1942. She is buried in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala-Cynwyd, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

An exhibition entitled “Cecilia Beaux and the Art of Portraiture” will open at the Westmoreland Museum of Art in Greensburg on Sunday, February 25, 1996. The exhibit, which had been on view at the National Portrait Gallery in the nation’s capital, showcases nearly sixty portraits. The exhibition will also include drawings of Henry James, Thornton Oakley, and Ida Tarbell, as well as related memorabilia, such as medals, certificates, and awards.

“Cecilia Beaux and the Art of Portraiture” will remain on view at the Westmoreland Museum of Art through Sunday, May 5, 1996. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue by the same title.

To obtain additional information, write: Westmoreland Museum of Art, 221 North Main St., Greensburg, PA 15601-1898; or telephone (412) 837-2921. Admission is free.


Tick, Tock, Tick

Their faces are as distinctive as their lineage, their inner workings as complex as the woodwork of their cases.

Antique American tall case docks are fascinating – not only are they precise pieces of machinery and masterpieces of cabinetry, but many are known to have been made by talented Pennsylvanians.

To showcase regional examples, the Historical Society of Berks County in Reacting has mounted a major exhibition entitled “Berks County Tall Case Clocks, 1750-1850.” The exhibition features nearly three dozen clocks by makers who worked in Reading and the sur­rounding area. Many of the clocks, drawn from private collections, are prized family heirlooms and have not been publicly shown in museum set­tings. The exhibition features clocks that have not been significantly altered.

Tall case docks crafted in Berks County generally document the charac­ter of their makers, and this exhibit illustrates individual variations and the diversity of the makers. Clocks did not often leave the shops completely fin­ished; the clockmaker made the movement and the cabinetmaker pro­duced the case. Cabinetmakers’ personalities are characterized by both vibrantly painted and elaborately inlaid cases. The exhibition illustrates a variety of case styles, from Queen Anne through Empire periods. Although many of the faces were made in Great Britain, Benjamin Witman is known to have been making clock dials in Reading in the late 1790s.

Clocks are generally categorized by the maker of the dock mechanism itself, rather than by the cabinetmaker. Daniel Oyster, John Keim, and Daniel Rose are among the more than fifty clockmakers believed to have been working in Berks County between 1750 and 1850. Continuing research indicates that there were other makers working in the county during this period, including Henry Roi in Hamburg, Peter Gifft and Daniel Christ in Kutztown, and John Kline in Amityville.

More than two hundred and fifty clocks from throughout Berks County were painstakingly analyzed by a panel of experts before the final selection of thirty-five for the exhibit was made. As part of the development of the exhibi­tion, the historical society created a clock registry, a permanent (and constantly updated) record of clocks made in Berks County. Access to the registry is open to researchers, students and schol­ars, and antiques collectors.

“Berks County Tall Case Clocks, 1750-1850,” continues through Friday, March 15, 1996. Guided tours are conducted on Saturdays at 1:30 P. M. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

For more information, write: Historical Society of Berks County, 940 Centre Ave., Reading, PA 19601; or tele­phone (610) 375-4375. There is an admission charge, except on Saturdays during the showing of “Berks County Tall Case Clocks, 1750-1850.”


Battle Royal

For the first time in more than forty years, The White Girl (Symphony in White, No. 1) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) and Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) can be seen together, at the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition, “Whistler vs. Sargent: Cosmopolitan Aesthetic Dialogues,” high­lights these “successes des scandalous” in the context of seven works of art drawn from the museum’s permanent collection.

Both of these highly stylized, iconic images were deeply offensive to nine­teenth century audiences. The infamous masterpieces helped to create the avant­-garde reputations of Whistler and Sargent and continued to create a stir when exhib­ited in both Europe and America through the early years of this century. By tracing the exhibition histories and analyzing the criticisms of these two paintings, the exhi­bition reveals the ways in which works and objects are shaped by the circum­stances of their display, and how viewer reception to them changes over time.

“Whistler vs. Sargent” examines the influence of the two “radical” works on selected American painters, including Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, Robert Herui, Edmund Tarbell, and Cecilia Beaux (see “Artistic Ambitions: Cecilia Beaux in Philadelphia” by Tara Leigh Tappert in the winter 1996 issue). A work of Sargent’s first teacher, Charles Emile August Carolous-Duran, serves as an example of conventional portrait practices to which the two expatriates were responding.

Whistler’s The White Girl (Symphony in White, No. 1) and Sargent’s Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) were loaned especially for this exhibition by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, respectively.

“Whistler vs. Sargent Cosmopolitan Aesthetic Dialogues” will continue through Sunday, February 11, 1996.

For more information, write: Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or telephone (215) 972-7600. Admission is charged.


Longwood’s Long History

After a decade of intensive planning and exhaustive research, a major exhibi­tion chronicling the historical and horticultural legacies of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Chester County, one of the country’s best known conservatories, has recently been opened to the public. The permanent exhibition has been installed in the ground floor of the spacious Peirce-du Pont House, the residence of Longwood Gardens founder Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) from 1906 until his death.

The exhibition draws upon the conser­vatory’s extensive photographic and manuscript collections to illustrate the his­tory of the property, which can be traced back more than three centuries to its earli­est inhabitants, the Lenni Lenape. Visitors enter the historic property, today known as the Peirce-du Pont House, through its 1914 conservatory and proceed to the north wing where “Pierre S. du Pont: A Man and His Garden,” a video incorporating newly discovered du Pont family home movies, is shown. In the house’s south wing, exhibits examine various aspects of the history of the estate and its owners, including its occupancy by the Peirce family (which owned the property before Pierre S. du Pont), the early flower gardens, the erection of the conservatory (1919-1921), the place­ment of fountains, and Pierre S. du Pont’s business and philanthropic interests.

Brothers Joshua and Samuel Peirce, members of the first family that occupied the historic house and among the earliest Quaker settlers in the Delaware Valley, planted the oldest trees on the property. The trees are still thriving and preserved in a setting known as Peirce’s Park.

In addition to a vast array of histori­cal and vintage photographs, “Longwood Heritage Exhibit” features a number of unusual objects, such as the original open-air theater control panel. The exhibition concludes with computer­-generated images that show the various stages of the construction of the house.

Longwood Gardens is open daily. There is a charge for admission.

Additional information is available by writing: Longwood Gardens, P. O. Box 501, Kennett Square, PA 19348-0501; or by telephoning (610) 388-1000.