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An Endless Panorama of Beauty: Selections from the Jean and Alvin Snowiss Collection of American Art

November 12, 2002 - May 16, 2003


This inaugural exhibition in the museum's newest gallery highlights more than fifty works of art from the Jean and Alvin Snowiss collection. Here you will find one of Winslow Homer's most prized, late watercolors depicting Prout's Neck, Maine; a signature portrait by John Singleton Copley just before he moved to England; and one of the finest oil studies Thomas Eakins ever produced. Also included are masterpieces by seminal American modernists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley. (left: Robert Street (American, 1796-1865), Descent from the Mountains, Pennsylvania , 1833, oil on canvas, Collection of Jean and Alvin Snowiss. Photo by Penn State Image Resource Center.)

Little did the Snowisses realize in 1976 when they bought their first painting -- a Hudson River School landscape by Robert Street -- how comprehensive their collection would become. It is not only the presence of such names as Andrew Wyeth, Albert Bierstadt, William Harnett, Childe Hassam, John Sloan, Arthur Dove, and John Marin that mark this as a premier collection. Indeed, there are several works by lesser-known painters that are just as stylistically and thematically loaded as those by the more canonical artists. The Snowisses appear to be most interested in those artworks that tell "good stories," culturally illuminating narratives. To be sure, these paintings are sophisticated monuments of art history, but they represent identifiably American themes and are immediately accessible to all. And even the briefest of conversations with Jean and Alvin will confirm what the artworks themselves suggest, namely that they have researched thoroughly each of these pieces and have a meaningful cultural dialogue with each of them. Thanks to their generosity, we all now get to share in this dialogue.

With particular strengths in still life, genre, and landscape painting, the Snowiss collection is as intellectually rich as it is formally sumptuous. The exhibition of these works, from November through May, gives our community a wonderful educational and cultural opportunity. This exhibition will make art lovers of all of us.

An Endless Panorama of Beauty celebrates not only the expansion of the museum's exhibition space and its concerted efforts to augment its collection of American art but also the longtime and ongoing support of Mr. and Mrs. Snowiss. Jean Y. Snowiss and Alvin L. Snowiss, collectors and staunch advocates of American art for the past twenty-six years, have allowed selections from their collection to be viewed across the United States and in Europe. Their most significant contributions, however, have been to the Palmer Museum of Art. The Snowisses were honored by Penn State in 1994 and again in 2002 for their contributions of time, effort, and financial resources to Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art. Jean and Alvin were instrumental in setting up the first Advisory Board to the museum, on which they have continued to serve since its inception in 1990. During the expansion of the Palmer Museum in the early 1990s they served on a committee to define the museum's needs, and to make the revision a reality the Snowisses contributed funds for the Benjamin and Lillian K. Snowiss Gallery of American Art-the largest gallery planned in the expansion. Since that time they have contributed several works of art to the Palmer Museum, including a significant work by Edward Hopper in 1994. (left: David Johnson (1827-1908).Rogers Slide, Lake George, New York , 1870, oil on canvas, Collection of Jean and Alvin Snowiss.)

The Snowisses' enthusiasm for American art and their desire for central Pennsylvanians to know more about their own artistic heritage led Alvin to give lectures on American art to various academic institutions and organizations in the area, including Penn State, Susquehanna University, local public schools, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association annual meeting.

Jean and Alvin were both born and raised in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Committed to increasing opportunities for students in the local public schools, they have established scholarships at Penn State for graduates of Clinton County schools who attend the University Park campus. They also fund the Alvin L. Snowiss Chair at Alvin's alma mater, the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Alvin graduated the University of Pennsylvania in 1952 with a B.A. and from the law school in 1955 with a J.D. He has been practicing law for forty-seven years and was the first recipient of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Cultural Heritage Award, which is given to a Pennsylvania lawyer who has made significant personal contributions to the arts and humanities outside his practice of law. He continues to practice in the Lock Haven firm of which he is a senior partner, Snowiss, Steinberg, Faulkner & Hall, LLP. Jean was executive secretary at General Armature Plant in Clinton County and subsequently a legal secretary-assistant before retiring and becoming a domestic engineer.


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