Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted in Resource Library on August 25, 2006 with the permission of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or wish to obtain a copy of the catalogue from which it is excerpted, please contact the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism and its Response in Pennsylvania Painting, 1900-1950

by Betsy Fahlman


Since the Colonial era, Pennsylvania has been a significant force in American art. With Philadelphia and Pittsburgh spanning the state as its major artistic centers, a broad range of important artists have been born in, worked in, or spent significant amounts of time in the state, collectively creating a vibrant art culture. Possessing wealthy and enlightened patrons, institutions of art study, and art museums, the chronicle of Pennsylvania's many painters is emblematic of the larger history of American art. Realism assumed many variations in style and theme amongst the state's artists, including rural Impressionism, urban and industrial subjects, European modernism, illustration, mural painting, folk art, and a broad range of other expressive modes. These categories are not mutually exclusive, and many of these artists had overlapping circles of friends and influence, especially in Philadelphia.

The artists who are the focus of this essay comprise an expansive definition of Pennsylvania realist painting. Some were born in the state, but painted elsewhere, while others pursued long careers here. Visitors were inspired by the subjects they saw in their travels. While a state-based lens ultimately transcends region, these works are all a significant part of the heritage of this large middle Atlantic state.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded in 1805, and occupying a vigorous Ruskinian edifice by Frank Furness completed in 1876, was one of America's leading art schools. It proved a tremendous unifying factor for artists in the eastern part of the state, and many of the artists in this exhibition are linked by their studies and their teaching careers there. [1] The styles they pursued after they completed their classes ranged from the Eakins-inspired realism of Tanner, the Impressionism of Mary Cassatt, and the adventurous modernism of Morton Livingston Schamberg.

With its emphasis on the close study of the human figure, its programs derived from the pedagogical principals of the famed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Thomas Eakins, who taught there between 1876 and 1886, continued this strong realist legacy in his portrayals of modern life. He was succeeded by Thomas Anshutz, and the pedagogical provenance that descends from one of the city's most notable painters is powerful: "The influence of Eakins, like a ghost, haunted the walls of the Academy." [2] Of the artists in this show, only Henry Ossawa Tanner actually studied with Eakins, but many took classes from Anshutz, who had been both his student and his assistant. In 1881, Anshutz was hired as a full-time faculty member at the Academy, where he would teach for thirty years. Other progressive teachers included Henry McCarter, Hugh Breckenridge, and William Merritt Chase.

While many women studied at the Academy, few were hired as instructors. Portraitist Cecilia Beaux became the institution's first female faculty member in 1895, and taught there until 1916. The second was Violet Oakley, who taught a class in mural decoration between 1913 and 1917. Beaux was the first woman to be awarded Academy's Gold Medal of Honor in 1898, with Oakley receiving the second in 1905.

Although the paintings in this exhibition were executed during the first half of the twentieth century, most of the artists included began their careers in the nineteenth. Several had already established their reputations before 1900. Alfred Bryan Wall, the son of painter Alfred S. Wall and the nephew of William Coventry Wall, spent most his life in Pittsburgh. When he resided for a short time in Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century, he became friends with Eakins, who painted his portrait. He is best known for his autumnal animalscapes of sheep, a subject he regularly portrayed from the 1880s on. Imbued with the spirit of the French Barbizon painters, the flocks that graze peacefully in his pastoral Shepherd and Sheep in Winter Landscape suggest a pre-modern sensibility. His father had served for a short time on the original board of the Carnegie Museum, and at his death, A. Bryan Wall succeeded him.

Best known for his portraits of Pittsburgh industrialists, Albert F. King was a prolific still life painter. Essentially self-taught, he spent nearly his entire life in the city of his birth, dying in 1945 at the age of ninety-one. His undated Still Life with Watermelon on a Wood Crate, a humble subject he painted several times, continues the trompe l'oeil realist traditions of the Peale family, John Frederick Peto, and William M. Harnett. His compositions are simple and straightforward, with the dark background serving to highlight his tasty subject. A wedge has been cut out so a beverage may be poured in, and the knife stuck in the bright green rind, with the pink fruit being the chief color notes.

During the decades after the Civil War, Paris became the world's leading art city. An international array of students flocked there to take advantage of the best art training available, either at the highly competitive Ecole des Beaux-Arts, or at the many alternative academies that sprang up to provide instruction to those who did not gain admission to the famed French school. The art atmosphere was unequaled anywhere else in the world, and students in Paris also could visit the city's excellent museums and participate in the large annual Salons. In addition to having an alluring atmosphere of art, the city was a more tolerant environment for artists of color, like Tanner, and women, as in the case of Cassatt. Establishing themselves as expatriates, they had careers abroad not possible in America, though generally their patrons were from the United States. Yet no matter how long they resided in Europe, these artists wold always be regarded as Americans. Kevin Sharp has observed: "Mary Cassatt was an American artist by birth, but not altogether by inclination." [3] The nationalistic French did not fully embrace their many American expatriates.

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African-American painter to achieve an international reputation. Born in Pittsburgh, the son of a minister, his family moved to Philadelphia when he was a child. Encouraged by his father to follow him into the ministry, Tanner was determined to be an artist, and in 1879 enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy. His major teacher was Thomas Eakins, with whom he would study off and on until 1885. Tanner gained rigorous training in drawing and figure painting that was the hallmark of the Academy's program. It was not easy for a person of color to have a career in the fine arts, and several difficult years followed his Academy classes. But supporters helped him amass sufficient funds to study in Paris at the Académie Julian, and early in 1891 he left for Paris. Deciding to make one last attempt to achieve professional success in America, he returned to Philadelphia.

Among his important early works executed on this trip were several portraying African-American subjects, including The Banjo Player (1893, Hampton University Museum) and The Thankful Poor (1894, Private Collection). But by 1895, soon after he had returned to Paris, he abandoned these themes in favor of the religious paintings with which he became best known. Once re-settled in France, he made periodic visits to the United States, but remained an expatriate for the rest of his career. Even had his professional prospects improved in Philadelphia, his marriage to a White woman in 1899 would have made residence in America problematic.

Tanner's work was first accepted into the Salon in 1895, but it was the canvas he showed in 1896, Daniel in the Lion's Den, that brought him wide notice. Awarded an honorable mention and praised by Eakins's former Ecole teacher, Jean-Léon Gérôme, it launched his career. The Resurrection of Lazarus was purchased by the French government for the Musée du Luxembourg after its Salon showing in 1897, and The Annunciation (Philadelphia Museum of Art) was shown at the Salon in 1898. With these ambitious subjects, Tanner emphatically established himself as one of the leading painters of religious subjects of his day.

Tanner's canvas, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures (c. 1909), is typical of his mature work. [4] A handsomely painted figural composition,, his Biblical rendition displays his considerable technical and compositional skills. To insure that his paintings were as authentic as possible, he made several trips to Palestine. His models were his wife Jessie and his son Jesse, the couple's only child who had been born in 1903. For Tanner, realism was both a celebration of his family as well as an article of faith. His canvas does not illustrate a particular passage from the Bible, but refers more generally to the long tradition of imaging the Madonna and child. Thematically it has intriguing connections with the work of Mary Cassatt, who, like Tanner, lived in Paris, and who showed the influence of the strong academic training they both gained in Philadelphia and Paris.

Cassatt had studied at the Academy for five years beginning in 1861, going abroad to continue her studies in 1866, making her Salon debut in 1868. Except for when she returned for a short period during the Franco-Prussian War, France would be her home for the rest of her life. Although an expatriate, that her family's fortune derived from the Pennsylvania Railroad gave her name a continuing economic presence in the state. She was the only American member of the French Impressionists, with whom she would exhibit beginning in 1877, and continuing until 1882. [5] Typically she left her Paris apartment to summer at her château at Beaufresne.

Executed at the beginning of the artist's late period, Mother and Two Children (1901) was painted when the artist was fifty-six. At the tuen of the twentieth century, her reputation was secure and her prestige in the international art world at its height: "The most eminent of living American women painters." [6] During this period she traveled extensively, and her many social obligations meant she had less time to spend in her studio. Cassatt continued working until about 1915, when problems with her eyes forced her stop painting.

The painting portrays a typical subject she had explored in paintings, prints, and drawings for more than two decades. In contrast to the flaneur boulevardiers of the male Impressionists like her friend Degas, her subject is situated in distinctly female space, and is a domestic scene within the world of women. A graceful image of a woman with two children, the circular format evokes the Renaissance stability of Raphael's Madonnas. The ease of the mother's pose, emblematic of maternal affection, and the beautiful gown she wears show the cocooned comfort of their economic circumstance. Yet such a comfortable image could intersect modern political concerns. In 1915, the painting was shown at Knoedler Gallery in New York, as part of a "Loan Exhibition of Old and Modern Painters for the Benefit of Woman Suffrage," organized by Cassatt's good friend, collector Louisine Havemeyer.

If Tanner and Cassatt made their reputations abroad, other artists achieved considerable financial success in this country in the areas of mural and portrait painting, and as illustrators. While they might chafe at the requirements of commissioned work, it often brought for them far more recognition than museum exhibitions. Portrait commissions provided a steady income for an artist skilled in balancing the needs of their patrons and the need for a recognizable likeness.

Cecilia Beaux produced handsome large canvases of her socially prominent subjects, some rivaling the bravura technique of John Singer Sargent, the favored painter of the American aristocracy. Born in Philadelphia, with the death of her mother shortly after she was born, her grief-stricken father returned to his native France, leaving Cecilia and her sister to be raised by her maternal grandmother and two aunts. It was an unusual upbringing, but her genteelly impoverished relatives appreciated the arts and valued culture, and Beaux's career benefited from her solid grounding within her extended family, who supported her decision to become an artist. After private art lessons, Beaux enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy in 1877, pursuing further study in Paris for two years. Returning to Philadelphia in 1889, she soon gained a reputation as a skilled portraitist, receiving commissions from elite patrons in the major cities of the Northeast. Such was the demand for her work, that by the turn of the twentieth century, she established her studio in New York. Thereafter, she managed an active career until 1924, when she fell and broke her hip. She was sixty-nine years old, and the crippling effects of the accident made it difficult for her to paint. Beaux then focused her energies on writing her autobiography, publishing Background with Figures in 1930. She died in 1942 at the age of eighty-seven.

Malcolm Parcell, the son of a minister, grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania, where his father was pastor of the Broad Street Baptist Church. He returned home after his graduation from Carnegie Tech in 1918, and soon met Helen Louine Gallagher, who became his wife in 1937 when she was thirty-four. His portrait of her, Louine (1918, Board of Public Education, Pittsburgh), painted when she was fifteen, earned for him his first acclaim, winning a medal when it was exhibited the next year at the National Academy of Design. She remained his favorite model, and the profile pose of his 1943 full-figure portrait of her is unusual. She was a public school teacher in Washington, though her stylish bobbed hair and dress suggest a night out rather than classroom attire. Her pose implies some discomfort, as one of her arms rests on the arm of the chair, while the other is draped over the back, her tense fingers perhaps signaling impatience with posing.

Franklin Watkins came to Pennsylvania by a circuitous route. Born in New York, he grew up in North Carolina. He enrolled first at the University of Virginia and then at the University of Pennsylvania, before entering the Pennsylvania Academy, where he studied on and off between 1913 and 1918 (he began his twenty-five year teaching career there in 1943). Thereafter he remained in Philadelphia for most of his career, and by the mid-twenties his distinctive romantic realist style had emerged. He became famous in 1931, when his Suicide in Costume (Philadelphia Museum of Art) won first prize at the Carnegie International. The expressive style, unusual color sensibility, distortion of form and gesture are all typical of his work. The artist's first one-man show was held in 1934.

Andrew Carnduff Ritchie felt Watkins produced "some of the finest portraits painted today in America," [7] many prominent Philadelphians posed for him. His portrait of Jane Drummond (also titled Remember Me) is an ethereal image of his youthful subject, a girl in her late teens clad in a white dress. Her dreamy pose shows the artist's interest in creating a psychological mood rather than making a dutiful rendition of his subject's features: "Early in the game I rejected my gift for quick and easy likenesses in suspicion that it was too easily come by." Rather than recording a subject exactly, he interpreted what he saw, desiring to make "a picture of an image from that model that took shape in my head." [8] The subject, Jane Drummond, was an English girl who lived with an American family during World War II. A ribbon trails from the nosegay she holds with the inscription "Remember Me," which combined with the 1945 date, implies that with the end of the war she may soon be returning to her native land. Her age also suggests she might also have just graduated from high school, when such mementos would have been popular.

America's "Golden Age of Illustration" flourished from 1880 until the beginning of World War I, and Pennsylvania was a significant center for this genre, including N.C. Wyeth, Violet Oakley, and Maxfield Parrish, the latter two of whom were also muralists. Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was the catalyst for a generation of illustrators. A prolific and popular artist whose first works were published in 1876, he was also a gifted teacher. When the Academy rejected his proposal to offer instruction in this subject, he began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry in 1894, leaving there in 1900 to open his own school in Wilmington, Delaware, which he operated until 1905. His influence was formidable, and many of his students, which included a large number of women, pursued successful careers in the field. [9]

A successful illustrator could command a handsome salary and gain national fame. Although N.C. Wyeth would struggle for years over his commercial work, wanting recognition as a fine artist, he was extremely successful, possessing skills unmatched in his generation. For more than forty years he created unforgettable images. He studied with Pyle between 1902 and 1904, publishing his first illustration in 1903. He moved to Chadds Ford in 1908, a village on the Brandywine River he had first visited during Pyle's summer classes. Among his most famous works were the illustrations he made for a series of classic adventure tales published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was the first to appear in 1911, and other Stevenson novels followed in 1913 (Kidnapped) and 1916 (The Black Arrow). King Arthur by Sidney Lanier came out in 1917, and the next year The Mysterious Island, the fifth in the series. Wyeth illustrated a total of twenty-six volumes in this series, executing the last in 1939, The Yearling. Among his most famous were those he produced for The Last of the Mohicans (1919) and The Deerslayer (1925), both by James Fenimore Cooper.

N.C. Wyeth's handsome oil The Mysterious Island (1918) was the cover image for Jules Verne's novel first published as L'Ile Mystérieuse in 1874. In addition to the cover, he made fourteen illustrations and a frontispiece for this volume, as well as dozens of pen and ink drawings. While Wyeth preferred Stevenson in terms of imagination and writing, he realized Verne's book "offers splendid material for my brush." [10]

Set in March 1865 near the end of the Civil War, the novel chronicles the adventures of five Union prisoners who, with a dog, escape from the siege of Richmond, Virginia, in a Confederate reconnaissance balloon. Wyeth portrays a dramatic scene on the cover. The five characters cling to their small craft, which has bee buffeted by a terrible storm: Captain Cyrus Harding (an engineer), Gideon Spilett (a journalist), Pencroff (a sailor), Herbert Brown (a courageous boy), and Neb (a cook and freed slave). Smith's faithful dog Top is also aboard. Blown for five days on a 6,000 mile journey to the South Pacific. Losing air, the balloon rises and falls precipitously, and they assume they are doomed.

Miraculously they are dropped from the clouds to find themselves marooned on an uncharted and deserted place they name Lincoln Island. Enduring many adventures, they manage to survive using island resources and their ingenuity. They are secretly aided by Captain Nemo, the reclusive hero of Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), who eventually emerges from his grotto to reveal himself to them. When he dies, he is buried in his submarine, the Nautilus. After four years they escape as the island's volcano erupts, finally rescued by a passing ship.

Illustration engaged a popular audience, while murals in public buildings reinforced civic dialogue on a grand scale. Emblematic of the American Renaissance, the Beaux-Arts mural movement flourished in the several decades after the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The Great White City was a splendid display, whose buildings were handsomely decorated with paintings and sculpture by the country's leading artists. The City Beautiful movement also rose at this time, and was the catalyst for a new vision of America's civic structures within the context of urban planning. Most commissions went to men, and Violet Oakley was one of the few successful women muralists. [11]

Oakley began a year of study with Howard Pyle in 1896, pursuing a successful career as an illustrator. For a decade and a half she shared several studios with two former Pyle students, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith. By 1906 they were joined by Henrietta Cozens, and moved into "Cogslea," the idyllic property in the then rural Mount Airy section of Philadelphia where she would remain for the rest of her career. The name was an acronym formed by the initials of their first names, with the poetic "lea" referencing the tranquil meadow that surrounded it.

In 1902, Oakley received the first of three commissions that would occupy her for the next twenty-five years, to execute a series of murals for the new Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. It was the first major mural commission ever awarded to a woman, and she received $20,000 for the work. The undertaking was enormous, and eighteen large panels she executed between 1902 and 1906 collectively portraying her theme, The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual, were installed in the Governor's Reception Room. She traveled to England to research the life of William Penn, and to Italy to study mural painting techniques.

Forty-four feet long, International Understanding and Unity is the largest of her Capitol murals. Its scale necessitated the enlargement of her studio, and the artist painted on canvas from many studies, working on a moveable scaffold without assistants. Her idealistic and ambitious composition is replete with symbolism "in which she depicted a world free from war and oppression, united by international cooperation." [12] She inscribed her allegorical panel with a passage from the Apocalypse: "He carried me away to a great and high mountain and shewed me the Great City and he shewed me a pure river of Water of Life as crystal proceeding out of the throne. The Leaves of the Tree were for the Healing of Nations." [13] The monumental figure of a woman with outstretched arms serves as the "keystone" [14] of her composition allegorically conveys the artist's thematic vision. She symbolizes the Water of Life or Unity. Other panels portray "The End of Warfare," "The End of Slavery" (based on Penn's principles), includes Man removing the shackles of Woman. That she has portrayed an image of a strong female references the women's suffrage movement of the time.

With Edward Austin Abbey's death in 1911 at the age of fifty-nine, Oakley was given the balance of his commission, executing murals in the Senate Chamber and Supreme Court Room. Before he had died, he had completed The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania and The Hours (1907-11) for the House of Representatives, and The Spirit of Vulcan, The Genius of the Workers in Iron and Steel (1904-08) for the capitol rotunda. [15] Her Senate murals, painted between 1911 and 1920, illustrate The Creation and Preservation of the Union. Those in the Supreme Court took ten years (1917-27), and the sixteen panels trace The Opening of the book of the Law. The artist was paid $100,000 for these murals.

Mural painting was a studio enterprise, but may artists preferred to work out of doors. Impressionism has long been a popular American style. Initially controversial, The Ten American Painters made their debut in 1898, although its members had been working in an Impressionist style for many years. [16] Pennsylvania Impressionism was a distinctive regional variation, with its center at New Hope. [17] The setting was attractively rural, yet with easy access to Philadelphia and New York. Attracted by the landscape and inexpensive cost of living, Philadelphia artists (many had been Academy students) began coming to this pleasant Bucks County town on the Delaware River in 1898, and by 1929 regular exhibitions were held at the Phillips Mill, the artistic community center. Working en plein air, painters eschewed their academic training in favor of something more spontaneous and free, while not completely breaking with the realism grounded in direct observation that was the hallmark of training at the Academy. Landscape was the favored subject of these artists, though the painters might include the canals, mills, and bridges typical of rural industrialization.

The most influential member of the New Hope school was Edward Redfield, Center Bridge in 1898, the first of the group to settle in the area. He had studied at the Academy during the late 1880s before going abroad. His early friendship with Robert Henri, with whom he would travel, serves as a reminder that many of these artistic circles were permeable, with considerable stylistic overlap. His several trips to France during the 1890s introduced him to plein air painting, and thereafter he painted out of doors year round. He completed his canvases in a single day, and remains best known for his large snow scenes. One of the most successful landscape painters of his day, after his first one-man show at the Academy in 1896, his work was exhibited widely. Achieving his characteristic style early, he continued to paint until he was about seventy-five.

Another member of this group was Daniel Garber. Born in Indiana, he was the son of a Pennsylvania Mennonite farmer. After attending summer classes at the Derby School of Painting in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, with Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy in 1899. He spent six years there, studying with William Merritt Chase, and possibly Cecilia Beaux. Fellowships then permitted him two years of European study. Returning to Pennsylvania, in 1909 he began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy, where he would remain an instructor until 1950. He and his wife lived in Lumberville, and in his rural studio he produced some of the handsomest landscapes and figure paintings produced by any Pennsylvania Impressionist. His graceful and lyrical compositions were inspired by scenes near his home. A skilled figure painter, his poetic canvases reveal his thoroughly academic training and strong drawing skills in their harmonious presentation.

Robert Spencer, a native of Nebraska, began studying art at the National Academy of Design in 1899, where his teachers included William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. He moved to Bucks County in 1906, and in 1909 lived and studied with Garber, who although younger was already well established. His finances remained tight for some years, but he began to achieve success by the mid-teens. Unfortunately an increasingly unhappy marriage and chronic depression caused a series of mental breakdowns which affected his ability to work. Although renewed by trips to Europe throughout the twenties, his demons proved overwhelming, and he committed suicide at the age of fifty-one in 1931.

New Hope artists painted in all seasons, but Spencer's Summertime (c. 1915-20) serves as a reminder that the warmer months were especially attractive to artists. He was fascinated by the architecture and people of the area. Reflecting his internal struggles, his paintings are at once more somber in mood than Garber's, often portraying the local mills and daily activities of local residents in the tradition of the Ashcan School. The composition is typical of the artist's oeuvre, with water in the foreground. Against a backdrop of dilapidated tenements, two women do laundry, while two children play nearby. His interest in working class subjects is unusual for a Pennsylvania Impressionist.

Although he spent much of his career abroad, Walter Elmer Schofield was another artist with connections with New Hope. Born in Philadelphia, like so many of his fellow Pennsylvania artists, he studied at the Academy (1889-92). He met Henri before he went to France for three years, and saw him extensively in Europe and after his return in 1895. After marrying and Englishwoman in 1896, he spent much of the rest of his life in England, though returned annually to America for long periods to show in major exhibitions, maintaining studios in Philadelphia and New York. By the first decade of the twentieth century, he was working in an Impressionist style. His Early May Morning (c. 1919), a painting of his middle years, was inspired by structures in a rural Cornwall village, but its landscape theme, bright colors, and the fact it was painted outdoors all are hallmarks of the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

The Pennsylvania Impressionists were "one of the strongest male-dominated groups in the early twentieth century," [18] but by the twenties, several talented women moved to the area, including Fern Isabel Coppedge. Born in Illinois, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League, and finally at the Pennsylvania Academy (1917-18), where at the latter one of her instructors was likely Daniel Garber. She was also a student at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She was active in the Philadelphia Ten between 1922 and 1935. [19] It may have been Garber who influenced her to first visit there in 1917, for in 1920 she purchased a house and studio across from his. She favored the snowscapes that were common subjects for members of the New Hope group. Her Back Road to Pipersville portrays the route to a town not far from Lumberville, and its strong brushwork and lively color are typical of her paintings. Redfield would complete a painting in a single day on site, but Coppedge, who preferred to work on a smaller scale than her male contemporaries, made sketches ahead of time.

Another woman artist who painted in Bucks County was Mary Elizabeth Price, who had moved while young with her family to Solebury. Educated at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Arts and at the Academy, she joined the Philadelphia Ten in 1921. Traveling extensively in Europe throughout her long career, she always returned to her cottage on the Delaware River. Best known for her floral compositions, she also painted landscapes.

Many artists went through an Impressionist phase, including members of what is popularly known as the Ash Can School. Within the first decade of the twentieth century, a group of romantic urban realist artists led by Robert Henri established themselves as The Eight. Exploring scenes of city life in their art, they challenged the academic artistic values exemplified by the conservative National Academy of Design.

Although the romantic urban realism of The Eight is most closely associated with New York, where the group made their debut in 1908 at the Macbeth Gallery, five of them got their start in Philadelphia: Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, and John Sloan. [20] More revolutionary in subject matter than style, their work shocked conservative academic artists whose work portrayed historical or allegorical themes. By the time of the Armory show in 1913, The Eight were no longer radical, but they continued to paint the subjects that had interested them at the turn of the twentieth century for the rest of their careers. Their engagement with the contemporary scene provide ample subjects for a lifetime of work. Taking inspiration from the life around them, and that half of the group-Glackens, Shinn, Luks, and Sloan-had worked for newspapers enabled them to hone their observational skills. The speed with which these artist-reporters had to record what they saw on a publication deadline informed their painterly vision.

The leader of The Eight was Robert Henri, who enrolled in the Academy in 1886, where Anshutz was one of his teachers. He made regular trips to France throughout the 1890s, painting in an Impressionist style. Henri had strong personal connections with several artists in this show, including Spencer, Schofield, and Redfield. By the end of the decade, his palette had darkened under the influence of Dutch and Spanish Baroque paintings. After his move to New York in 1900, he began to paint the immigrant children and street life that were his favored subjects.

During the summer of 1912, Henri was in Spain with his second wife Marjorie and a group of students. He enjoyed traveling to a country to which he had returned regularly throughout the previous decade. The artist relished painting ordinary people who struck him as full of life and character, about whom he took a broad humanistic vantage: "The people I like to paint are 'my people,' whoever they may be, wherever they may exist, the people through whom dignity of life is manifest, that is, who are in some way expressing themselves naturally along the lines Nature intended for them. My people may be old or young, rich or poor, I may speak their language or I may communicate with them only by gestures. But wherever I find them, the Indian at work in the white man's way, the Spanish gypsy moving back to the freedom of the hills, the little boy, quiet and reticent before the stranger, my interest is awakened and my impulse is to tell about them through my own language: drawing and painting in color." [21] Gitana Vieja (Madre Gitana) of 1912 illustrates Henri's words, and the artist was evidently struck by his subject's red skirt and contrasting dark top.

Sloan, who had been born in Lock Haven, began his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1892 under Anshutz, the year he met Henri. His classmates were Glackens and Maxfield Parrish. For many years he supported himself through illustration, and of The Eight, he was the only one to produce a major body of prints. His paintings reveal his keen eye for contemporary urban life. He was the last of the core group to move to New York, and he did not leave Philadelphia until 1904.

During the late twenties, his figures became more monumental as the artist developed a technique of underpainting and glazing reinforced with a linear overlay that gave his work a sculptural solidity and texture. Girl, Back to the Piano (1932) is a typical work in his later style.[22] Sloan taught for twenty-five years , and the subject is Gitel Kahn, a student of his at the Art Students League with whom he was romantically involved for several years during this period. Executed in tempera on panel, his medium and technique suggests a Renaissance formality in contrast to the relaxed pose of his attractive subject who looks directly at the artist with an engaged expression, her relaxed and confident gaze revealing their comfortable relationship. The artist was pleased with the resolution of the formal elements of this painting: "An excellent color tonal quality pervades this canvas. The linear texture comes and goes, here and there, and is perhaps on that account very satisfactory. The nature of the light is well expressed. The photo seems to search out the painting more than the eye does." [23] Kahn posed for a number of works for him, one of which the artist noted his admiration of her "warm brown torso." [24]

George Luks, a native of the logging town of Williamsport, moved with his family to Shenandoah in coal country when he was about six. His father was a doctor, and his upbringing a comfortable one. After study at the Academy for a month in 1884, he went abroad. In 1894 he took a position as a staff artist with the Philadelphia Press, which is where he met the other newspaper artists who became part of Henri's circle. Moving to New York in 1896, he was hired by the New York World, where he was joined by Glackens and Shinn in 1897. The Guitar (1908) in its dark coloration and brushy style is typical of his early work, when his gusto for ordinary people and the street life of the Lower East Side is evident. In 1925, he returned for the summer to Pottsville, where his family had lived for a short time while he was growing up, to do a mural at a local hotel on the theme of the coal industry. While there, he execute a series of canvases portraying Pennsylvania anthracite miners in the mid twenties. Like many members of The Eight, Luks taught, and Virginia Cuthbert was one of his students.

Luks traveled widely and led a life full of incident, but because he was an inveterate storyteller who cultivated a flamboyant public persona, it is often hard to separate myth from fact. Shinn described him as "a glutton for existence." [25] The subject matter, style, and quality of his work varies widely, but he loved paint and was fascinated by the life around him.

The flickering brushwork and high color of the paintings of William Glackens was infused with the spirit of French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir who had a profound influence on the American artist. Born in Philadelphia, he was graduated from Central High School in 1898, where his fellow students included John Sloan and future collector Albert C. Barnes. With the latter, Glackens shared an intense appreciation for Renoir, and assisted him in purchasing French artists. In 1891, he obtained work a newspaper illustrator, and took night classes at the Academy from Anshutz, with whom he studied 1892-94. Sloan introduced Glackens to Henri soon after he returned from Paris, and Henri shared a studio with both artists. Glackens sailed to France in 1895, visiting Holland with Henri and Elmer Schofield. When he returned a year later, he settled in New York, supporting himself as an illustrator. His sophisticated subjects share the world of Shinn, and are more urbane than the gritty street life of the Lower East Side, preferred by Henri, Luks, and Sloan.

His early paintings share the dark tones of Manet and Hals favored by several of the leading members of The Eight, but after spending six summers at Bellport on Long Island between 1911 and 1916, his palette brightened. After 1914, he took on less commercial work in order to concentrate more on his painting. In the thirties, he painted some handsome figural compositions, of which The Easter Hat (c. 1930) is a strong example of the reserved formality characteristic of his studio work.

Everett Shinn, the youngest member of The Eight, pursued a career as a theatrical muralist and rococo revival house decorator, illustrator, and painter. In 1893, he had a position as a staff artist with the Philadelphia Press, where Luks, Glackens, and Sloan also worked. He also enrolled in the Academy (1893-97), a period during which he met Henri, moving to New York in 1897 to take a position with the World and later with the Herald. In 1901 he went to Paris where the theatrical world en encountered inspired a series of paintings portraying urban stage entertainment. Whether he was in the vaudeville theatres of New York, or the music halls of Paris and London, Shinn preferred the elegant artifice of the theatre to the bleaker city subjects favored by other members of The Eight. His sketchy style was perfectly suited to recording the changeability of the stage, and his rococo flair captured the spirit of evanescent illusionism that is the essence of these entertainments.

For Shinn, the city of New York represented a fascinating and an ever-changing spectacle, and on the stage he found the perfect subject for his oils and pastels. The urbane environment of the theatre engaged him more than any drama he could witness on the street. His Green Ballet (1943), painted when the artist was sixty-seven years old, thematically and stylistically evokes his work from the turn of the twentieth century. Although an oil, it possesses the sketchiness of his pastels. He was skilled at portraying the American vaudeville and variety theatre, he enjoyed representing female dancers, often in the spirit of Edgar Degas, who had immersed himself in the world of classical ballerinas. Shinn painted his first theatrical piece in 1900, and ballet pieces also date from this period. That he was able to sustain a lively vision for more than forty years reveals the strength of his visual engagement with these subjects.

The Eight confirmed the vibrancy of subjects taken from modern life, suggesting broad subject matter for American artists. Many chose themes they knew well, and those living in manufacturing cities found subjects in the unusual beauties of contemporary American industry. Pittsburgh was a major industrial center, and artists were inspired by the spectacle of the city's factories and steel mills that made fortunes for the Fricks, Carnegies, and others.

Pittsburgh, a city synonymous with industry, remained a leader in steel and iron production, as well as a major railroad center, and Aaron Harry Gorson celebrated the workers and the immense factory complexes that sustained it. A student of Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy, after leaving for study in Paris, Gorson returned to America. He settled in Pittsburgh in 1903, and soon began to paint the city's steel mills. Most he painted form the outside, though occasionally he made dramatic interior views. The industrial landscape remained his favorite theme until he moved to New York in 1921, and his night scenes of the Bessemer furnaces at night convey the dark beauties of his subjects, some of which he painted at dusk to emphasize a poetic mood. Like most of the artists who were inspired by industry before the Depression, he was little concerned with the labor conditions inside, and Monongahela Steel Mills and Barges (1912) is typical of his Pittsburgh work. Smoke, whether it came from smokestacks or trains, appealed to Gorson and was a strong formal element of his paintings of the rugged mills. But the smoke, soot, and fumes that were characteristic of the nation's capitol of coal and steel may have been picturesque to the artists who painted it, but the air pollution created by these industries was a public health problem for those who lived nearby.

In the twentieth century, women increasingly challenged societal strictures about appropriate female behavior. More women became artists than ever before, though their careers were often less successful and they were judged by a different standard. The daughter of wealthy Pittsburgh painter who married a steel industrialist, Johanna Hailman could have settled for a life of privilege and amateur painting. [26] Yet this woman possessed of a strong personality and exuberant energy who linked Pittsburgh's art and social worlds did not settle for the easy route, and combined an art career with a strong commitment to civic service. When she showed in New York in the 1920s, Forbes Watson characterized her as an individual "troubled by no doubts and no hesitation." [27] By the 1930s, Hailman was regarded as "Pittsburgh's foremost woman artist" [28] and the "dowager doyen of Pittsburgh," [29] yet this redoubtable painter still had more than twenty-five years left in her career. An avid gardener, she was well known for her paintings of flowers, regarded as an acceptable subject for a woman artist. She was also an art patron who for many years annually purchased a painting from the Carnegie International (she bequeathed her collection to the Carnegie). Her work was shown in the International beginning with the first exhibit held in 1896 when she was twenty-five, and exhibited every year thereafter (except two) until 1955, three years before her death at the age of eight-seven.

Hailman shared Gorson's enthusiasm for industrial subject matter, as seen in her stunning Mills, Trains, and Barges (1940). Portraying industry and technology remained a largely masculine enterprise, but some powerful images were created by Hailman. [30] Many of her works were inspired by the seascapes and landscapes she saw on her travels (she wintered in Nassau), and gardens, she could also powerfully portray the spectacle of the smoking mills of the industrial city that remained her lifelong home. Other strong works include her Jones and Laughlin Mill (c. 1925-30, Carnegie Institute) whose buildings and fumy smokestacks capture the visual essence of one of the city's leading industry. [31]

Certain cities were emblematic of the sheer power of modern industry, and few could rival Pittsburgh, whose steel mills were a rich source of iconic images for photographers and painters. But not all artists portrayed the drama of production. In Pittsburgh (1937), done under the WPA by Christian Walter, the artist has focused on the raggedy housing cobbled together near the mills that provided employment for residents. The smoke stacks of the mills provide the backdrop. Its less celebratory character conveys the sense of endless work to gain a meager living that was the lot of many who lived there. Walter was committed to local subject matter: "It is a mistake for artists of this district to leave the environs of Pittsburgh to seek material for landscape painting. To my mind no other place in the world has the wealth of material that can be found here at home." [32]

Everett Warner moved to Pittsburgh to take a teaching position at Carnegie Tech in 1924, where he would remain until his retirement in 1945. His As the Sparks Fly Upward (1940) shows one of the mills along the river in the background volcanically belching flames, as the Bessemer furnaces shot bursts of fire into the sky. In the foreground is housing for factory workers. The wintry scene is bleak, and the mood conveyed is similar to that of Walter.

The paintings by Walter and Warner are part of the Steidle Collection at the College of Earth and Mineral Industries at Pennsylvania State University. [33] The collection was established by Edward Steidle, the school's dean between 1928 and 1953. In its focus on American industrial art, especially mining, this collection is unique within the history of American collecting. [34] Concentrated on the industrial geography of Pennsylvania, more than 230 works by 136 portray the mining and metallurgy central to the College's educational mission.

Hobson Pittman's brooding Heavy Furnace (1933) conveys not the dramatic display of industrial production, but rather the bleak isolation that was often the condition of modern industrial life. The artist grew up in rural North Carolina, moving to Philadelphia in 1918. He attended Penn State University (1921-22) and Columbia University (1924-25), before enrolling in Carnegie Tech in 1926. In 1931, he began what would be a long teaching career at Philadelphia area institutions, including the Academy, where he taught between 1949 and 1972. Some of his canvases convey a mood of "strange nostalgic fantasy," [35] informed by the moody memory of his Southern childhood and an enthusiasm for the Victorian era.

The Great Depression began with the stock market crash of October 1929, and the years of economic devastation that followed were challenging ones for artists nationwide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President in 1933, and soon implemented a series of alphabet agencies collectively known as the New Deal whose purpose was to help Americans in need, including artists. Most famous was the WPA, which funded post office murals throughout the country. The representational modes of Regionalism and American Scene were the dominant styles, and realism gained strength from a national artistic agenda. The thirties represented another significant period of mural painting for American artists, who entered multiple competitions hoping to obtain commissions. Paintings were executed in every state, and New Deal art programs helped create a national culture.

The work of Clarence Holbrook Carter is deeply rooted in the Ohio River Valley town of Portsmouth, located in the southern part of the s state across the border from Kentucky. By the thirties, he had achieved his distinctive realist style, a powerful combination of the bleak loneliness of Edward Hopper and the more emotionally charged imagery of Charles Burchfield. Strongly regional in character, his realism was both nostalgic and hallucinatory, grounded in a vernacular vision. Even when he left Ohio, his memories of his native state continued to inform his vision. Wherever he lived, he remained an independent thinker: "My expression of America has been shaped by its vigor and vitality, its peace and calm and the spell of its past." [36]

Carter sought support from the federal government, executing murals for the Cleveland Public Auditorium (1934), and two more in Portsmouth (1938), where he had been born and in Ravenna (1936). While Carter did not win the competition for Barnesville, Ohio, his 1935 entry portrays a typical theme. [37] Between 1937 and 1938, he was an administrator with the Federal Art Project in Ohio. Between 1938 and 1944, Carter taught at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. He found the city picturesque and full of character, but the smoke that inspired Gorson and Hailman made it, in his opinion "a miserable place to live." [38] He regarded it as "the most important indictment of capitalism that I know." [39] Wanting more time to devote to his painting, in 1944 he resigned his position, and moved the quiet solitude of Bucks County, remaining there until 1948, when he settled in Milford, New Jersey, near the Delaware River.

Born in Philadelphia, Samuel Rosenberg, who would become known as "The Dean of Pittsburgh Painters," moved with his family to that city in 1907 at the age of eleven. He taught for at Carnegie Tech for forty years (1924-1964), where he had earned his degree in 1926, as well as at the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College, 1937-1945).

Beginning as a portraitist, he later made many paintings portraying the socioeconomic life of the inner city. Artists nationwide pursued an art of social protest and conscience as conditions worsened for the urban poor throughout the Depression. Rosenberg's Social Realist God's Chillun (1934) portrays an incident of African-American street life in Pittsburgh's Hill District. A religious revival proceeds down Crawford Street, led by a large woman at the center who wears a white dress emblazoned with sash bearing the words "Faith, Hope, and Charity." She sings and bangs a drum, accompanied by a crowd of others with cymbals and trumpets. The neighborhood also had a large Jewish population, and was where the artist himself lived. Many other canvases were inspired by the scenes he saw near his home, including Eviction (1935). His panting became more expressively abstract in style during the forties.

Born in West Newton, Virginia Cuthbert pursued a broad art training in America and abroad, and as a result had a range of styles and subjects. As a child she had studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, returning to the University of Pittsburgh in 1932, and a year later had her first solo show in the city. She continued to exhibit widely in Pittsburgh and in 1934 won a prize for the best painting by a woman from the Carnegie Institute, a reminder of the many challenges faced by women artists, often slighted by separate "women's awards." [40] For more than a decade she lived in Pittsburgh, and her connection to the city deepened with her marriage to another artist from the city, Phillip Elliot (they would move to Buffalo in 1941, where her husband assumed the directorship of the Albright Art School). Her subject matter would change with her move.

The Depression hit major American industrial cities hard, and Pittsburgh was no exception. Cuthbert's expressive Slum Clearance on Ruch's Hill, Pittsburgh (1937) responds to the dramatic social changes that took place during the thirties. Her scene, which was shown at the Carnegie International, portrays a group of Black women and children watching their homes in a blighted neighborhood being demolished by workmen, nearly all of whom are white. The scene is bleak, and it not clear if the urban renewal it represents includes finding new homes for those who have been displaced. Her subdued colors conveys the somber nature of her subject.

Born in Minnesota, George Ericson, working under the pseudonym Eugene Iverd, became famous was an illustrator, producing covers for the Saturday Evening Post (the first was published in March 1926), as well as images for other leading magazines. Advertisements were another important source of income for artists willing to undertake commercial work. In 1916, after a year of study at the St. Paul Art institute, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy. Drafted into the Army in 1918, the Armistice was declared before his outfit could be shipped out. He was then transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he taught art to wounded veterans. After his discharge from the Army in 1921, he secured a teaching position in Erie. He did well in his new position and soon was promoted to become the city-wide supervisor of art instruction. His illustration career took off during this period, and by 1926 he could cut back the hours he worked for the city. Summers were often spent back in Minnesota with the family. He grew increasingly successful, and in 1933, he was able to resign from the Erie school system to devote himself full time to his commercial work. But he would have barely three years on his own. He had been diagnosed some years earlier with rheumatoid arthritis, and he died in 1936 at the age of forty-three.

Ericson's Young Scientist (1932) was a typical subject for a painter who preferred to paint children. Holding a magnifying glass, his youthful subject bends down to inspect an insect on a milkweed plant. His net, specimen jar, and binoculars are on the ground in front of him. With a pencil tucked in his ear, he is ready to jot down his observations in the notebook he holds in his left hand. Intent on his task, the sunny summer atmosphere conveys the optimism typical of his work. Although the depression was in full force, one senses the optimistic possibility of a bright future.

Ericson taught at Academy High in Erie, where one of his students was Joseph Plavcan, whom he encouraged to pursue a career as an artist. In 1926 be began studying at the Pennsylvania Academy, where his teacher had also studied. Plavcan did well in his studies, winning a Cresson Scholarship to study and travel in Europe in 1928. In 1931 Plavcan returned to Erie. The next year he took a teaching position at Erie Technical High School, where he taught between 1932 and 1970. By the time of his retirement, he had earned a reputation as Erie's most influential art teacher and had earned the respect of several generations of students. Scenes from the city inspired him throughout his half-century career.

Plavcan's Classroom (1940) presents the constants in his life: his art, his students, and his interest in the community around him. While Erie Tech was a trade school whose purpose was to teach students practical skills with which they could secure employment after graduation, he gave his vocational art classes a broad general grounding in the fine arts. To hone their skills of observation, he took them outside to draw and paint from nature. When it was too cold to do this during the winter, his students worked from models or modest still life arrangements inside. In this scene, four students are visible. One pauses to look directly at the artist, while the other three are absorbed in their drawings. The class is diverse, with an African-American, two women, and a young white man. On the window sill may be seen a small collection of plaster casts taken from Renaissance and classical works. Outside a wintry landscape is visible. The trees are bare of leaves and the ground in snow covered.

Realism remained a strong aesthetic current throughout the thirties, but representational artists were paralleled by painters working in abstract styles. The Eight were followed by avant-garde artists inspired by the boldly adventurous abstract styles of Europe. Many members of the American avant-garde had strong connections to Philadelphia, and began their career as realists.

Morton Livingson Schamberg's career was cut tragically short at the age of thirty-seven in 1918 when he fell victim to the international flu pandemic that swept the world that year. He had been born in Philadelphia, and earned an architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1903. But by the time he had graduated he realized that he preferred painting and drawing to designing buildings. After pursuing summer classes with William Merritt Chase (1902-1903), he enrolled in the Academy (1903-1906). One of his fellow students, Charles Sheeler, became one of his closest friends, and the pair traveled to Europe together. They also shared a studio, and spent weekends in Sheeler's Doylestown home. His second trip to Paris (1908-09) was pivotal, and his encounter with the work of Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso changed the direction of his work. In 1910, he had his first one-man show, and several of his works were included in the Armory Show. His work, which developed rapidly, shows a range of influences, including Fauvism, Cubism, Synchromism, and Dada, the latter which saw form in a series of fascinating mechanical abstractions based on machine forms.

Arthur B. Carles, born in Philadelphia, studied at the Academy between 1900 and 1907 (except for the 1902-3 season), and would return to teach there between 1917 and 1925. Carles, who was in Paris between 1907 and 1910, and again in 1912, was part of a group of American moderns who was in Paris during the first decade of the twentieth century, permitting him direct contact with European modernism, and his early work was strongly influenced by the intense color and painterly technique of the Post Impressionists and Fauve Henri Matisse. Carles returned regularly to Paris, often staying with Edward Steichen at his house in Voulangis, a small village about thirty miles from the city. In the spirit of Matisse, his work was strongly affected by the free handling of paint and brilliant color of the Fauves that would remain the hallmark of his work through the twenties, by which time he was known as "the man who paints with color."[41] Alfred Stieglitz included his work in a group show at his seminal gallery 291, and gave the artist his first one-man show in 1912. Drinking began to be a severe problem by the end of the twenties, mirroring his personal and professional problems. Reviews of his work had been discouraging, his marriage broke up, and he was dismissed from his teaching position at the Academy. Financial difficulties plagued him for the rest of his career. During the thirties, his work lost the lyricism it had before, assuming a formal structure derived from the Cubism of the School of Paris. After 1941, when a fall in his studio left him partially paralyzed, he was unable to paint again until his death in 1952. His late works are important precursors to Abstract Expressionism.

Charles Demuth spent most of his life in his native Lancaster, where his family had run a tobacco shop since the eighteenth century. His still life paintings of local flowers, fruits, and vegetables are emblematic of the agriculture of the Amish and Mennonite farmers whose heritage strongly inform the character of that rural city in the center of Pennsylvania Dutch country. A student of Anshutz at the Academy for five years, he traveled regularly to Philadelphia and New York. Beginning about 1920, he produced a series of powerful architectural that established him as a leading Precisionist painter. My Egypt (1927, Whitney Museum of American Art) remains the artist's most famous painting. Diagnosed with diabetes early in the twenties, health problems restricted the artist for the rest of his career.

Demuth's contemporary Charles Sheeler portrayed the plain structure of Bucks County barns and the Ephrata Cloister in Reading with the scientific precision of observation of the Machine Age. While he did not paint Pennsylvania industry, his images of factories and mills were quintessential Precisionist works in their combination of modernism and realism. He studied at the Academy between 1903 and 1906, orking throughout his career in painting, drawing, and photography. He had a strong interest in photography. Like Demuth, his American modernism was solidly grounded in both a sense of place and an appreciation for the past.

Sheeler had a strong interest in antiques and craft artifacts whose straightforward design resonated with his modernist paintings. Between 1910 and 1919, he rented a house in Doylestown where he met collector Henry Chapman Mercer who encouraged his interest in early American architecture and Shaker furniture. Mercer opened the museum that bears his name in 1916, a treasure trove of American material culture. A strong proponent of the Arts and Crafts, and tiles from his Moravian Pottery and Tile Works (which opened in 1898) were installed in the new state capitol building in Harrisburg.

Another interest of many avant-garde artists was folk painting, the most famous example of which is the connections between Henri Rousseau and the Cubists. Although the state had superlative art academies, a series of talented self-taught artists who worked in highly personal a folk realist style emerged in Pennsylvania. Self-taught artist John Kane observed: "But there are advantages in the practical end, not to be found in art school." [42] Born in Scotland in 1860, Kane came to this country at the age of nineteen, and endured a life of poverty and hardship, supporting himself through a variety of jobs involving hard manual labor. Not until 1927, when he was sixty-seven years old, did he achieve recognition as an artist. That year one of his pictures was accepted in the Carnegie International, making him instantly famous. Museums began to show his work, culminating in his first one-man exhibition held at the Phillips Collection in 1931, three years before his death. His autobiography, Sky Hooks, was published posthumously in 1938. He took his new fame in stride: "I have lived too long the life of the poor to attach undue importance to the honors of the art world or to any honors that come from man and not from God." [43]

His Turtle Creek Valley 1 (c. 1930), was one of several inspired by this view. Pittsburgh's many valleys and rivers made it a city of bridges, common elements in his work. Kane's painting depicts the sturdy concrete spans of the George Westinghouse Bridge. The artist had a keen eye for local detail, and the city's bridges, trains, and hills were among the his favorite subjects: "I find beauty everywhere in Pittsburgh. It is the beauty of the past which the present has not touched. The city is my own." [44]

African-American folk-realist painter Horace Pippin drew inspiration from his own life and that of the people around him. The son of a domestic servant, he worked as a laborer in a range of trades until he enlisted in the service during World War I, joining the 369th Colored Infantry Regiment of the 93rd Division of the United States Army. A bullet paralyzed his right arm, and in 1918 he returned to West Chester, where he had been born. Although he had drawn as a child and had made sketches while abroad in the military, he did not seriously begin painting until the late twenties. His first solo show was held in Philadelphia in 1940, and collector Albert C. Barnes wrote an essay praising his highly individual vision. Pippin's fame grew after this time. His winter scene Losing the Way (1930), was painted in oil on a burnt-wood panel, suggesting the highly individualized technical approaches taken by folk artists. A man walks in the snow beside a horse-drawn covered wagon in search of the path, which has been covered by snow. The painting is small as the artist's disability limited his ability to work on a large scale. It was one of a series of oil on burnt-wood panels he executed. He would draw his designs in pencil, then burning the line with a hot poker, before applying paint.

Surrealism was another variant of realism and several artists pursued highly individualized imagery. [45] Norwood MacGilvary's symbolic Here and Elsewhere (c. 1944) was inspired by current events. The cosmic scene painted by this normally realistic artist, features the moon, stars, and galaxies. The artist, who taught at Carnegie Tech between 1921 and 1943, reflects his interest in philosophy which he had earlier studied at the University of California. A giant baby sits on the earth, his raised right arm shaking a red rattle. Two eruptions are visible, referencing World War II being fought in European and Pacific theatres. The catastrophe represented by the war is also seen in the comet that streaks between the earth and the moon. But the artist's unusual image is not without hope, although the war had not yet ended when the artist painted his canvas. Not only is the baby's expression open and full of eager expectation, the face of God is seen at the right. His head is topped with a galaxial swirl of concern, and the intense blue of his eyes echoed in the comet. His hand protectively cradles the planet that has been wracked by global conflict.

Landscape remained a popular theme throughout the forties. Light Snow (c. 1948) by Roy Hilton depicts the artist's house as seen from his driveway. Although each element is entirely recognizable, the low horizon line, sharp angle of vision, and the startling coral sky create a surreal effect. The artist, a native of Boston, came to teach at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1928, remaining on the faculty for nearly thirty years. The artist, who lived in the Mount Lebanon section of Pittsburgh, did post office murals in Rockymount, Virginia, in 1938, and in Westfield, New Jersey in 1939.

The paintings by MacGilvary and Hilton are both part of the collection of the Greater Latrobe School District. Pennsylvania has long had a rich history of collecting as seen in its great institutions, like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Institute. More unusual were high school art collections. The one in Latrobe was begun in 1936 with the purchase of Blossom Time by Martha M. Morgan and Deserted Farm by Clarence McWilliams.

Walter Stuempfig, a prolific painter who produced more than 1500 works, was born in Germantown to a wealthy family, and as a result did not have the usual financial worries that plagued so many artists. He began four years of study at the Academy in 1931, where one of his teachers was Daniel Garber. He first showed at the Academy in 1932, but his success as an artist dates from 1942 when his work was included in the "Artists for Victory" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He himself was on the Academy faculty beginning in 1948, and continuing until his death in 1970. Working in a neo-romantic and introspective realist style grounded in a long tradition of western figure painting, many of his works have an oddly surreal quality, yet connected to nineteen century academicism. He had a deep respect for the Old Masters, and his vision was distinctively expressive.

In Stuempfig's Altercation, the odd dislocation of his moody imagery reminds viewers that his vision is grounded in twentieth century narratives. In this enigmatic canvas, a psychological narrative of alienation is conveyed. Three figures are seated in a non-descript room-two men and a woman (when is was shown at the Academy in 1956, it was titled The Sybil).

Throughout the forties, the realism had assumed more expressive modes, and the work of William Baziotes serves as a bridge to the abstraction that was the trademark of the New York School, all of whose artists began their careers in realist modes. Born in Pittsburgh, he grew up in Reading, and moved to New York in 1933 to study at the National Academy. Supported by the WPA during the thirties, after 1938, his work grew increasingly abstract, strongly influenced by the many Surrealists who had fled Europe during World War II. His untitled oil of 1946 dates two years after his first one-man exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery. The delicate colors of his mature lyrical abstractions feature floating biomorphic shapes suggestive of marine forms. The mid-forties was a period of transition for him, as he moved from late Cubism to a grander sense of abstraction, a breakthrough enabled by his contact with Surrealism and automatism. In 1946,he had a solo exhibition at the Kootz Gallery, where he would show until 1958.

By the end of World War II, the rise of Abstract Expressionism signaled that the art world had emphatically shifted from Paris to New York. While realism would always remain the style of choice for many strong painters, abstraction was overwhelmingly favored by the new avant-garde. But as the works in this show reveal, realism remained an enduring and renewable tradition within the art history of Pennsylvania.


Acknowledgments: At the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, it has been a pleasure to work with Director Judith O'Toole and Curator Barbara Jones. I also wish to thank the following individuals for their assistance in this project: Vasti F. DeEsch (Reading Public Museum), Valerie Livingston (Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna University), Leo G. Mazow (Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University), Christine Oaklander and Sofia Bakis (Allentown Art Museum), and Jillian K. Scheffner (Erie Art Museum). The abundant resources of the library at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, provided the foundation for this research.

1 For more on the teaching at the Academy, see In This Academy: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-1976 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1976).
2 Henry Clifford, Franklin Watkins (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art 1964): 8.
3 Kevin Sharp, "How Mary Cassatt Became an American Artist," in Judith A. Barter, Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1998): 145.
4 A later version in the collection of the Des Moines Art Center dates from 1910-14.
5 The French Impressionists held the first of eight exhibitions in 1874, and the last in 1886. The Ten made their debut in New York in 1898.
6 Georges Clemenceau, "The Most Eminent of Living American Women Painters," Current Opinion (February 1909): 167, referenced in Mathews, Nancy Mowll Mathhews, Mary Cassatt: A Life (New York: Villard Books, 1994): 252.
7 Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Franklin C. Watkins (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1950): 8.
8 Clifford, Franklin Watkins, 12.
9 For more on Pyle, see Henry C. Pitz, Howard Pyle--Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School (New York: C. N. Potter, 1975); Rowland Elzea and Elizabeth H. Hawkes, eds., A Small School of Art: The Students of Howard Pyle (Wilmington, DE: Delaware Art Museum, 1980); and Lucien L. Agosta, Howard Pyle (Boston: Twayne, 1987). See also Drexel's Great School of American Illustration: Violet Oakley and Her Contemporaries (Philadelphia: Drexel University Museum, 1984), and Helen Goodman, "Women Illustrators in the Golden Age of American Illustration," Woman's Art Journal 8 (Spring-Summer 1987): 12-22.
10 N.C. Wyeth to his mother, 16 January 1918, Betsy James Wyeth, ed., The Wyeths: The Letters of N.C. Wyeth, 1901-1945 (Boston: Gambit, 1971): 573.
11 While there were abundant allegorical images of women, Oakley was one of the few women working in the field. The exception was the Women's Building at the Columbian Exposition, which had murals by several women, including Mary Cassatt. Few female historical figures were portrayed.
12 Patricia Likos, "Violet Oakley," Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art 75 (June 1979): 7.
13 Ibid.
14 Speech given in 1955 by Violet Oakley, quoted in Alica A. Carter, The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000): 173.
15 See Kathleen A. Foster and Michael Quick, Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1974).
16 The Ten American Painters was a group of New York and Boston artists who exhibited together between 1898 and 1919. Its original membership was comprised of Julian Alden Weir, John Twachtman, Childe Hassam, Robert Reid, Willard Metcalf, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Edmund Tarbell, Frank Weston Benson, Joseph R. DeCamp, and Edward E. Simmons. There was a substantial American colony in residence at Giverny.
17 Artists of widely varying styles often painted in the same place. In addition to the Impressionists, a substantial contingent of modernists also lived in New Hope. See Roy Pedersen and Barbara A. Wolanin. New Hope Modernists (New Hope, PA: New Hope Modernist Project, 1991).
18 Thomas C. Folk, The Pennsylvania Impressionists (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997): 104. There were no women members of either The Eight or The Ten.
19 The Philadelphia Ten (1917-1945) was formed by a group of women who had studied together in art school. Most had been students at the Philadelphia College of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art), but a few had taken classes at the Academy.
20 The other three members of The Eight were Impressionists Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast, and Arthur B. Davies, the latter who would be one of the organizers of the Armory Show in 1913.
21 Robert Henri, "My People," The Craftsman 27 (February 1915): 459.
22 The artist repainted the face in 1946. See Rowland Elzea, John Sloan's Oil paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991): vol. II, p. 337.
23 John Sloan, Gist of Art (New York: American Artists Group, 1939): 313.
24 Ibid., p. 312. This comment was made in regards to Nude on Navajo Blanket (1933). She is also the subject of an etching, Nude and Breakfast Tray (1933) and a painting, Model in Dressing Room (1933).
25 "Everett Shinn on George Luks: An Unpublished Memoir," Archives of American Art Journal 6 (April 1966): 5.
26 Her grandfather, Joseph Woodell had also been an artist. Her father was painter Joseph Ryan Woodwell (1842-1911), and her husband, whom she married in 1905 was James Hailman. He died in 1930.
27 Forbes Watson review in the New York World, quoted in "Johanna K.W. Hailman," Pittsburgh Post, 11 November 1923.
28 Bessie W. Bughman, "Her Garden is Hobby of Mrs. Hailman," Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 10 February 1931.
29 "Hailman: A One-Man Show, Largely Floral, Hung by Pittsburgh's Dowager Artist & Perennial Internationalist," The Bulletin Index, 28 October 1937.
30 The characteristic subject matter of Precisionism appealed largely to male artists. A notable exception was Elsie Driggs (1898-1992), whose most famous painting, Pittsburgh (1927, Whitney Museum of American Art), was inspired by a visit she made to the Jones and Laughlin steel mills. The artist's Pennsylvania connection is almost entirely this symphonic work. Born in Connecticut, she lived in Philadelphia between the time she was five and eight years old, when her family moved to the New York area. She lived much of her life in Lambertville, New Jersey, with her husband Lee Gatch, whose career took precedence over hers.
31 Collector Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) was born in Pittsburgh. He was the grandson of the co-founder of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. Its mills, among the city's largest, inspired several artists in this exhibition.
32 Paul Chew, Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters, 1800-1945 (Greensburg: Westmoreland County Museum of Art, 1981): 146.
33 It had been founded as the School of Mines in 1896.
34 The Milwaukee School of Engineering has an industrial collection, but the works are nearly entirely European. See Klaus Türk, Man At Work: 400 Years in Paintings and Bronzes, Labor and the Evolution of Industry in Art. Milwaukee: The Eckhart G. Grohmann Collection at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, 2003.
35 "Hobson Pittman: Painter of Romance and Fantasy," in Ernest W. Watson, Twenty Painters and How They Work (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1950): 99.
36 Clarence Holbrook Carter quoted in Dorothy C. Miller and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., American Realists and Magic Realists (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1943): 33.
37 Michael Sarsky's Airmail (1937). Carter executed two murals in Ohio post offices: Characteristic Local Scenes in Portsmouth (1938) for the Portsmouth and Early Ravenna (1936) for Ravenna. He submitted a design for a mural in Springfield, but it was not selected.
38 Clarence Holbrook Carter, "I Paint As I Please," Magazine of Art 38 (February 1945): 46.
39 Ibid.
40 For instance, the Mary Smith Prize, established at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1879, was given to the best work by a Philadelphia woman shown at an Academy annual.
41 Barbara A. Wolanin, Arthur B. Carles (1882-1952): Painting with Color (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1983): 92, citing Jo Mielzner, "Arthur Carles: The Man Who Paints With Color," Creative Art 2 (February 1928): xxxv.
42 John Kane, Sky Hooks: The Autobiography of John Kane (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1938): 101.
43 Leon Anthony Arkus, John Kane, Painter (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971): 5.
44 Kane, Sky Hooks, 181.
45 American Surrealism manifested itself broadly. See Isabelle Dervaux, Surrealism USA (New York: National Academy of Design, 2005).

About the Author

Betsy Fahlman is Professor of Art History, School of Art, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ


Editor's note:

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Travis Mearns of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art for his help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.


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