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.

Shooting Modernism

Luke Swank (1890-1944) was one of the pioneers of Modernism in photography. He was born in Johnstown, Cambria County, just eight months after the Flood of 1889 roared down South Creek Fork to the Little Cone­maugh River. The thundering wall of water, which reached a height of forty feet, destroyed everything in its path, including the Swank family’s hardware store. The flood also killed his grandparents and injured his father. A member of a prominent merchant family, Swank was educated at the Pennsylvania Agricultural College (now The Pennsylvania State University), where he studied chemistry and horticulture. During World War I he served as a lieutenant and engaged in research related to chemical warfare. He began his serious exploration of photography after the war ended and by the mid-1920s he had begun his study of the working circus, examining light and form in his circus images and his early portraits. By the end of the decade he had turned his attention to steel mills and their workers.

While Swank was serious about his photography, he initially did not earn a livelihood as a photographer; until his mid-for­ties he worked in his family businesses. In 1930, he was selling automobiles for the family-owned dealership in Johnstown. Late in the following year, he contacted New York art dealer and critic Julien Levy (1906-1981), who had just opened the Julien Levy Gallery, a venue dedicated to showing photography and the work of Surrealists. Through the twenty-six-year-old Levy, Swank received an invitation in 1932 to create a five-part photo mural entitled Steel Plant for “Murals by American Painters and Photographers,” an exhibition mounted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The exhibit was MoMA’s first to include the work of photographers. In 1933, the Julien Levy Gallery gave Swank a solo exhibition, “Photographs of the American Scene.”

The Great Depression had taken its toll on the family businesses and, about 1935, Swank, at the age of forty-five, moved to Pittsburgh and began to make a living from commercial photography. He worked at the University of Pittsburgh as photographer and teacher. He developed a photojournalism course that was sufficiently innovative for its time that its creation was noted by The New York Times. In 1936, he took on commercial projects for the H.J. Heinz Company and the following year, in partnership with Edgar Kaufmann, opened a studio at 526 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. From the mid-1930s until his death in 1944, Swank continued with his ex­ploration of Modernism in photography while earning a livelihood as an advertising and editorial photographer.

Swank photographed a number of buildings and structures in western Pennsylvania, including steel mills, beginning in the late 1920s, with images of the Bethlehem Steel Company’s Franklin Mills in Johnstown. His later photographs of Pitts­burgh have been described as “urban poetry, an elegy to urban life,” created when he seized unscripted moments from the flow of time, when someone or something quite mundane became the critical element in his composition.

Although a pioneer of Modernism in photography and well known in the thirties, Swank was largely forgotten, becoming a “missing modernist” – until now. “Luke Swank: Modernist Pho­tographer” will open at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh on Saturday, November 5. While Swank’s images are crisp and clean, they are less about specifics of place and time and more about transcendence of place to universality of experience. They offer an extraordinary look at the America of the mid-to-late 1920s, the Great Depression, and the first half of World War II. “Luke Swank: Modernist Pho­tographer” will continue through Sunday, February 12, 2006.

For more information, write: Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3080; telephone (412) 622-3131; or visit Admission.


Down to the Sea

An exhibition featuring marine paintings and seascapes by noted American artists has been mounted by the Reading Public Museum to showcase its collection of outstanding works of art. “I Must Go Down to the Sea: Seascapes and Marine Paint­ings from the Permanent Collection” features works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and mixed-media. Many of the pieces have rarely been exhibited.

The exhibition was prompted by a recently completed com­prehensive survey of the museum’s fine arts holdings, which identified an impressive number of pieces by some of the most prominent American masters of this genre. Artists represented on “I Must Go Down to the Sea” include James Hamilton (1819-1878), Franklin Dullin Briscoe (1844-1903), Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), and Andrew Wyeth (born 1917).

The American tradition of marine painting covers a broad range of imagery and content related to the sea and coastal areas. American artists turned to established British and Dutch ?ar?e painting traditions for inspiration on themes and stylistic direction. Hamilton, a self-taught painter, recognized as the most talented marine artist of his day, was influenced by the British master J.M. W. Turner (1775-1851). Hamilton’s 1860 painting entitled The Approaching Storm is among the exhibited works. Much like Turner, he illustrates the sublime effects of light and atmosphere by painting brilliant clouds above a roiling ocean. His observations of nature and light and shadow aided ?in creating remarkable works of art. Other paintings by Hamilton featured in the exhibit are The Approach of Evening and At Sea.

“I Must Go Down to the Sea: Seascapes and Marine Paint­ings from the Permanent Collection” includes Frederick Judd Waugh’s 1900 canvas entitled Amber, Jade and Amethyst. In many of his marine paintings, Waugh generally focused on the light, color, and motion of waves as they broke along the shoreline. Also on view are Low Water by Andrew Wyeth, On Long Island Sound by Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916), The Ship’s Wake by Fritz Thaulow (1847-1906), A Passing Shower by Frank Rehn (1848-1914), The Shores of Conanicut by James Brade Sword (1839-1915), and Marine and To the Rescue by Briscoe.

The exhibition continues through Sunday, January 22, 2006. For more information, write: Reading Public Museum, 500 Museum Rd., Reading, PA 19611-1425; telephone (610) 371-5850; or visit Admission.


Early Wyeth

Through Sunday, November 20, the Brandywine River Museum is showing “Andrew Wyeth: Early Wa­tercolors,” an extraordinary exhibition of nearly fifty watercolors by one of America’s best-known artists. The exhibition illustrates the fascinating range of subjects Wyeth addressed in watercolor from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.

Although Andrew Wyeth is known primarily for his work in tempera (a medium in which pigment is mixed with water-soluble glutinous materials, such as egg yolk), his distinctive and early work in watercolor helped establish his reputation. Wyeth first gained national acclaim during his 1937 debut exhibition of watercolors at the Macbeth Gallery, an important commercial gallery in New York. Overnight, the twenty-year-old Wyeth was heralded by critics as a major new talent and a worthy successor to his idol and America’s dean of watercolor, Winslow Homer. Of the Macbeth Gallery exhibition, a _writer for the New York Sun wrote in 1937 that Wyeth “has a brave way of applying wash to the paper, and he is unafraid of color, and with these accomplishments he finds it easy to present you with clean, crisp water colors that immediately catch the eye.”

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire which mounted Wyeth’s first solo exhibition in a museum, in 1939, organized “Andrew Wyeth: Early Watercolors.” The exhibition focuses on the land and the people Wyeth painted both in Chadds Ford, in southeastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, and in coastal Maine, where he has summered since his youth. Because many of the works have been drawn from private collections and have not been publicly shown, the exhibition offers new perspectives on one of the nation’s most popular painters. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibit.

For more information, write: Brandywine River Museum, U.S. Route 1, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; telephone (610) 388-2700; or visit on the Web. Admission.


Majestic Views

Many consider the Hudson River School to be the first truly American school of painting. Flourishing about fifty years, roughly from 1825 to 1875, but extending into the late nine­teenth century, the tradition involved three centuries of artists and it was not, as some believe, geographically confined to the Hudson River Valley region. It was a movement that celebrated the vast natural resources of the American landscape just as it witnessed the onslaught of industrialization threaten that land­scape while asserting the United States’ role as a world power.

The artists of the Hudson River School shared several principles, including a belief in natural religion, the magnificence of nature and, especially, the significance of the fresh, untamed American scenery reflecting the national character, as opposed to the settled, civilized European landscape. They possessed a seemingly insatiable appetite for direct observation of the landscape around them, and were inspired by the constant awareness that in nature everything continually changes and nothing is stagnant. Changing seasons, times of day, weather conditions, and light inspired artists to create widely different views Hudson River School artists celebrated on canvas the raw, wild majesty of the American landscape in addition to communicating universal truths and philosophical concepts.

Individuals associated with the school included some of the more prominent painters of the period, among them Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Sanford Robinson Gifford, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kennsett, and John Willlam Casilear. Several of these major artists produced works intended as pairs, series, and groups. Cole, the founder of the movement, painted in series to communicate his narrative themes, whose complicated imagery could not be accommodated in a single painting.

Continuing through Sunday, October 23, at the Westmore­land Museum of American Art in Greensburg is” American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River Painting,” featuring three generations of artists. More than one hundred paintings by seventy-one painters are included in the exhibition. Land­scapes are grouped by pairs or arranged in series so that museum visitors can see how each generation of Hudson River School painters interpreted the land. The exhibition was drawn from a single private collection.

“American Scenes: Different Views in Hudson River School Paintings” is accompanied by a catalogue written by Judith Hansen O’Toole, director of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, who organized the exhibition.

Additional information is available by writing: Westmore­land Museum of American Art, 221 North Main St., Greensburg, PA 15601; by telephoning (724) 837-1500; or by visiting on the Web. Admission.