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Herbert Pullinger: A Cape May Historical Journey

January 18 - March 9, 2008

 

Philadelphia artist Herbert Pullinger (1878-1961) will be featured in a new exhibit opening on January 18, 2008 at the Noyes Museum of Art. The exhibit, titled Herbert Pullinger: A Cape May Historical Journey, offers a pictorial account of Cape May's natural and man-made environment during the mid-20th century. The exhibition, which continues to March 9, 2008, includes 42 drawings and paintings of Cape May's fishing and lodging industries, churches, neighborhoods and landscapes. The collection represents a 2006 gift to the Museum by the Cape May County Art League of Cape May, N.J. (right: Herbert Pullinger, Cape May Point Naval / Lifesaving Station, c. 1944)

Pullinger spent much of his time during the 1940's and 1950's painting the sites and landscapes in Cape May, N.J. Many of the artists images have not changed since he set up his easel over 50 years ago. Familiar scenes such as Congress Hall, the Chalfonte Hotel and the Franklin Street Methodist Church are included in the exhibit. The exhibition also includes images that have vanished from the Cape May landscape giving the viewer an historical overview of this famous seaside town. Lost for over 40 years, these watercolors and drawing were found by Cape May County Art League President Stan Sperlak during a recent move of the Leagues' archives. This is the first showing of these paintings at the Noyes Museum and only the second time that they have ever been shown publicly.

Described as an "urban romantic," Pullinger's first exhibited works were etchings and paintings of urban environments. He captured scenes of weapon and ammunition production at the Bethlehem and Midvale Steel Companies, U.S. war ships, the Pennsylvania coal industry and city buildings. Though most of these settings were of his hometown Philadelphia, he also included New York, Camden, Quebec, Boston, and Baltimore in his artwork. He once described Philadelphia as, "one of the most picturesque places in America, where nowhere could there be found such a blending of the old and new, the natural and the artificial." (left: Herbert Pullinger portrait , courtesy of Philadelphia Sketch Club.)

Pullinger was born in West Philadelphia in 1878. He studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of the Industrial Arts and Drexel University. He completed his education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under the instruction of realist painter, Thomas Anshutz. After becoming an illustrator for the Philadelphia Record in 1923, Pullinger taught perspective, etching, watercolor, and printmaking for 40 years at the Philadelphia Museum School (now known as the Philadelphia College of Art.)

Pullinger's long and accomplished career has been acknowledged with many awards and exhibitions. In 1926, Pullinger won the Eyre gold medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a silver medal for wood engraving at the Sesquicentennial Exhibition. His works have been on exhibit in the Luxembourg Museum; the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; the Springfield, Mass. Public Library; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His works also appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and the Philadelphia Bulletin. He was a member of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Art Alliance; the Philadelphia Sketch Club; the Philadelphia Art Club; and the Woodmere Art Gallery where he designed the official seal.

 

(above: Herbert Pullinger, Drydock at Schellenger's, Watercolor, 27 _ x 24 inches)

 

(above: Herbert Pullinger, Franklin Street Methodist Church, Watercolor, 20 x 24 inches)

 

(above: Herbert Pullinger, Sport Fisher at Pharoah's, Watercolor, 26 x 23 inches)

 

Gallery guide text for the exhibition

The unique beauty of Cape May's beaches, culture and historic buildings draw visitors from New York, Philadelphia and other surrounding areas. This same beauty attracted Herbert Pullinger to record the life and work of Cape May, New Jersey during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The exhibition Herbert Pullinger: A Cape May Historical Journey is a collection of paintings that form a record of Cape May as it was over half a century ago.
 
An accomplished American etcher, wood engraver, lithographer, painter and illustrator, Herbert Pullinger studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins and other prominent Philadelphia artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His first exhibited works of art were mainly etchings and paintings portraying urban settings. During the 1920s Pullinger was a superb technician of wood engraving. As a specialist of the graphic arts, his etchings, lithographs and wood engravings captured architectural landmarks of historic interest. Wood engraving was used for illustration in newspapers before photography become the common practice. An artist would create an on-site drawing of the event, and take it back to the office where he would engrave it into a boxwood block. Entered into the press, the image would appear in the paper the following day. With these engravings, Pullinger emerged as one of America's foremost wood engravers and examples of his art were included in major exhibitions in Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere. Pullinger became known for his depictions of urban environs, not only of hometown Philadelphia, but other North American cities including New York, Camden, Quebec, Boston, Baltimore and Washington.
 
It is Pullinger's love of place that gives viewers the sensation of recognizing familiar and unfamiliar scenes. In 42 drawings and paintings, Pullinger offers a pseudo walking tour of Cape May's natural and made-made environment during the mid-20th century, including the fishing and lodging industries, churches, neighborhoods and landscapes. The significance of Pullinger's work lies in his decision to compose pictures of Cape May's dry docks, fishing boats and back alleys, instead of the more proper Victorian parasols and costumes. You'll see no carriages or women strolling with parasols, Pullinger preferred the more common or ram shackled, capturing the grit and clamor of busy street life.
 
During this time, he painted some scenes that have not changed since the artist set up his easel over 50 years ago. Familiar images such as Congress Hall, the Chalfonte Hotel and Colonial Inn can be seen in his artwork. The Franklin Street Methodist Church has remained almost unchanged from the time Pullinger painted it at Lafayette and Franklin. Though many of these locations have changed very little, others have been forgotten and have disappeared. One of Pullinger's watercolors titled Drydock at Schellenger's was identified as modern-day's Tony's Marine Railway. Another titled Day Dragger is thought to be a part of the harbor now known as Devil's Reach. On the Promenade, captures Weightman Cottage and the Morning Star Hotel at their original locations; the Colonial Hotel, at right remains the sole architectural survivor.
 
 
Detailed Studies of Place
 
In order to historically archive his scenes, Pullinger created graphite studies on location to document the very details of time and place. Within several of the graphite drawings are insets, concentrated studies, indicating that this work was intended to be used in a finished piece. Numerous notes accompany Pullinger's graphite drawings to guide the artist in a more finished work to be produced at a later date. Outside the margins of the main drawing, he refined the details before committing his hand directly to the primary drawing. This practice allowed Pullinger to keep the drawing clean and free from the smudges of an erasure. Detailed graphic notes identify weather conditions, time of day and location. To historically document the day in Coast Guard Station, Pullinger includes the pennant under the American flag which is a small craft warning for treacherous conditions.
 
Lost for over 40 years, Pullinger's nostalgic paintings and drawings of Cape May were discovered recently by Cape May County Art League President Stan Sperlak during a move of the Leagues' archives. At first, he passed over the paintings, until noting the initials H.P. on a similar valuable collection of watercolors. Sperlak researched the mystery painter and embarked on a two year conservation effort and spearheaded a campaign to raise funds to preserve the collection. The paintings represent a 2007 gift to the Museum's permanent collection by the Cape May County (N.J.)
Art League.
Pullinger studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of the Industrial Arts, Drexel University and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under the instruction of realist painter, Thomas Anshutz. After becoming an illustrator for the Philadelphia Record in 1923, Pullinger taught perspective, etching, watercolor and printmaking for 40 years at the Philadelphia Museum School (now known as the Philadelphia College of Art). In 1925, Pullinger won the Eyre Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a silver medal for wood engraving at the Sesquicentennial Exhibition in 1926. His works have been on exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum; the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; the Springfield, Mass. Public Library; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His works also appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and the Philadelphia Bulletin. He was a member of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Art Alliance; the Philadelphia Sketch Club; the Philadelphia Art Club; and the Woodmere Art Gallery, where he designed the official seal.
 
 

Wall labels for the exhibition

Herbert Pullinger
Menhaden Boat at Schellenger's
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Eastern Rigged Fishing Boat
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Backyard Apartment, 1945
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Behind Petroff's
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Last Chance
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Railway, Pullcars and Shadows
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Henry L. Hunt House
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Eldridge Johnson House
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Fisherman Homes and Boat Houses
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Dock at Cold Spring Harbor
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
House with Trees
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
House on the Corner
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
On the Promenade
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Weightman Cottage and Morning Star
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 28 in.
Herbert Pullinger
Approaching Gale, 1944
Ink on paper
20 _ x 17 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
The Mainstay
Graphite on paper
18 _ x 15 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
House with Sign
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 14 in.
Herbert Pullinger
Drying the Nets
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 17 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Congress Hall
Ink on paper
21 x 18 _ in.
Herbert Pullinger
Porches at the Chalfonte, 1948
Graphite on paper
15 x 18 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Beach, 1945
Graphite on paper
18 _ x 15 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Beach Avenue Stores
Graphite on paper
15 _ x 18 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Jackson's Clubhouse, 1945
Graphite on paper
8 _ x 15 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Fishing Boat Studies
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 16 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Harbor with Bridge
Graphite on paper
19 _ x 15 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Lone Wolf, 1952
Graphite on paper
21 _ x 16 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Franklin Street Methodist Church
Watercolor
24 x 20 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Washlines
Watercolor
24 x 21 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Coast Guard Station, Cape May Point
Watercolor
24 x 21 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Small Craft Advisory
Watercolor
27 x 23 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Schooner at Dock
Watercolor
28 x 24 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Doorway
Watercolor
22 x 27 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Jackson's Clubhouse
Watercolor
23 _ x 20 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Overcast and Schooner
Watercolor
26 x 22 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Day Dragger
Watercolor
25 _ x 23 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
General Store, 1945
Watercolor
23 _ x 20 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Under Repair
Watercolor
26 x 22 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Dayboat at Drydock
Watercolor
26 x 22 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
A Schooner at Cape Island Creek
Watercolor
26 x 23 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Sport Fisher at Pharoah's
Watercolor
26 x 23 in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Cape May Boatworks
Watercolor
25 _ x 23 _ in.
 
Herbert Pullinger
Drydock at Schellenger's
Watercolor
27 _ x 24 in.

 

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