Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 16801758
From left to right: Joseph Richardson, Sr., Sugar Bowl, c. 1740-50, silver, Wyck, Inc. Germantown; Edward Feke, Portrait of Elizabeth Branson, 1746 oil on canvas, 43 1/2 x 36 inches, Private Collection
While meeting the requests of an increasingly sophisticated, demanding and prosperous clientele, the cabinetmakers, printers, metalworkers, painters and other artisans of the early Delaware Valley reinterpreted traditional forms and patterns imported from Europe. In doing so, they transformed the contemporary European Baroque aesthetic into a delicate style that emphasized balance, proportion, form and restrained ornamentation, and which ultimately coalesced as a distinctive American regional vision.
Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 16801758, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 10, 1999, through January 2, 2000, will highlight more than 350 fine examples of furniture, textiles, silver, metalwork, ceramics, prints, maps, books and paintings from this seminal place and time, lent by private collections and museums across the United States.
Worldly Goods is the first comprehensive examination of the important developments in the decorative and fine arts of Philadelphia and the surrounding Colony of Pennsylvania (which included portions of present-day Delaware and New Jersey) during the early colonial and pre-Revolutionary periods. Crucial advances in technology, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and commerce during the colony's first 50 years greatly influenced and transformed the tastes, manners, and mind-set of its earliest inhabitants. In Philadelphia and its environs, these advances were most visible in both the façades and interiors of public and domestic buildings. Indeed, entire cities and towns were shaped by this emerging aesthetic, and confirmed William Penn's 1683 pronouncement that, "I must without vanity say, I have led the greatest colony into America."
A material chronology of early Pennsylvania's artistic development, Worldly Goods will feature sections delineating particular forms, patrons, craftsmen, and stylistic trends that gained prominence during the 80 years it surveys. Highlighting the exhibition are objects and works of art -- many of which have never before been exhibited -- that evoke both the aesthetic sensibilities and cultural and political history of the period. Such objects include: an ancient Greek vase owned by the prominent Philadelphia merchant and businessman James Logan, William Penn's substantial, drop-leaf table with robust, urn-shaped turnings, a pair of ornate and rare silver sauceboats which belonged to Patrick Gordon (the Provincial Governor of Pennsylvania from 1726-36), the earliest map of the Delaware River valley and bay, drawn by the Swedish cartographer Peter Lindestrom in 1654, Delaware and Lenape Indian ceremonial artifacts presented in 1653 to Governor John Printz, the last Dutch governor of the region, The Death of Socrates (c. 1754), a rare mythological painting by Benjamin West, and the dramatic, marble-top pier table with carved lion mask and paw feet given to Pennsylvania Hospital in 1755 to mark the completion of its first building.
While exploring the ongoing influence of the British Isles on the arts of the New World, the exhibition will also examine the early stylistic influences of highly trained and influential artisans and craftsmen with roots in Holland, France, Portugal, Germany and Sweden. In addition, Worldly Goods will illuminate the experience of diverse cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic and religious groups in the region -- Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, the French, Huguenots, African Americans, and slave and indentured peoples -- and their contributions to the broader cultural landscape.
Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 1680-1758, is presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and organized by Jack L. Lindsey, the Museum's Curator of American Decorative Arts. Support for the exhibition is provided in part by The William Penn Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring individual object descriptions, essays examining culture, religion and science in early Pennsylvania, and an extensive bibliography. Additional support for the catalogue was provided by The Chipstone Foundation and generous individuals.
Worldly Goods will be joined in the Museum's Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries by The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks (also on view from October 10, 1999, through January 2, 2000), a comprehensive look at the life and art of a Bucks County-resident and devoted Quaker who became one of the best known and most beloved American folk painters. Both projects extend the Museum's distinguished series of exhibitions exploring American art and the rich cultural resources of the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley region. Most recently, these exhibitions have included Mad for Modernism: Earl Horter and His Collection (1999), The Peale Family: Creation of an American Legacy (1996), and The Cadwalader Family: Art and Style in Early Philadelphia (1996).
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For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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