Snaps from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Last week I went to Philadelphia to visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where I’ll be teaching an MFA Seminar and serving as a Visiting Critic this fall. Program director and painter Clint Jukkala gave me a tour of the school facilities and the museum, and it was a grand one indeed.

[Image: Ashley Wick, Funny Guy, 2014. On display in a curated exhibition of recent graduates.]

Founded in 1805 by painter and scientist Charles Willson Peale, sculptor William Rush, other artists, and business leaders, PAFA is the oldest art school in the country. The intimate PAFA Museum is housed in a landmark building (the grand entrance stairway is pictured above) designed by Frank Furness in the 1870s. The museum features a collection of work by American artists, including faculty and alumni, that is impressive for both its quality and its breadth.

 On the second floor of the museum.

Cecilia Beaux, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duvenek, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Edmund Tarbell, Robert Henri, and John Sloan are well represented, as are more contemporary artists like Jennifer Bartlett, Richard Diebenkorn, Nancy Graves, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Robert Motherwell, Raymond Saunders, and Frank Stella. Harry Philbrick, former director of the Aldrich Museum and PAFA director since 2011, inventively shuffles the wide-ranging collection.

In the first floor galleries of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton building, I saw Alba’s Garden, a stunning large-scale 1981 Alex Katz oil on canvas that the artist donated to the PAFA collection. Other notable works included an early Elizabeth Murray shaped canvas and a Jennifer Bartlett multi-piece grid painting.

In one of the smaller galleries in the Furness building, Din Avec la Main Dans le Miror, a 2008 Mickalene Thomas construction, was thoughtfully installed, surrounded by earlier American portraits.

Although the museum’s selection of post-war abstraction may be relatively small, I found E, a terrific mid-scale Adolph Gottleib painting from 1949, hanging on the second floor.

I’m looking forward to working with the MFA students and faculty at PAFA and spending more time in Philadelphia when school starts in the fall. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to make some prints in PAFA’s outstanding print shop (pictured above). We’ll see.

Related posts:
The square line: Jukkala and Rosenthal in Philadelphia (2010)
Painted word and reductive abstraction in Philadelphia (2007)

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