PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
announced its latest acquisitions of a wide range of works that significantly enhance its renowned collection of American art. Ranging in date from 1856 to 2015 and acquired through both purchase and gift, these new additions include more than 40 paintings, sculptures, mixed media, and works on paper.
Highlights of the new additions include David Johnson's finely detailed and grandly panoramic landscape The Hudson River from Fort Montgomery (1870); Harriet Hosmer's neoclassical marble sculpture Puck on a Toadstool (1856); Theodore Harris' mixed-media collages Vetoed Dreams (1995) and Cotton, Blood for Sonia Sanchez (2002); Emil Lukas' threaded work Contracting Hum (2015); Brian Tolle's mixed media sculpture No. 1 (First Inaugural Address) (2012); and a large collection of found object, mixed media and works on paper by pioneering artist and PAFA alumna Anne Minich spanning from 1978 to 2010.
Expanding and diversifying its permanent collection -- in particular its holdings of women and African-American artists, and Hudson River School painters -- through gifts and purchases is a key focus of PAFA's mission. The purchases are being made through collections endowments and dedicated collections funds.
"PAFA is a living institution in which connections between the past, present and future are visible in all aspects of our identity. These latest acquisitions reflect this continuum and reinforce our continued mission to telling the full history of American art," says David R. Brigham, PAFA President and CEO.
Anna Marley, Curator of Historical American Art, states that the newly acquired David Johnson is among the Hudson River School painter's finest works.
Marley says, "Given the excellent quality and condition of the painting, the fact that Johnson is only known to have painted six paintings at this scale, and the classic Hudson River scene with wonderful details like a train and steam and sail ships, we are thrilled to bring this work into PAFA's permanent collection."
Harriet Hosmer, who lived and worked in Rome, was the foremost American female sculptor of the mid-19th century and one of the few female artists of her time to achieve complete financial independence through her work.
"Despite the fact that Hosmer is the pre-eminent American female neoclassical sculptor, we had no works by her in PAFA's collection," Marley notes. "Given that PAFA has one of the best collections of American neo-classical marble sculpture in the country, this was a glaring oversight. Our acquisition of Puck really fleshes out and diversifies our collection."
Adding diversity to PAFA's contemporary collection are acquisitions of work by two Philadelphians: Theodore Harris, a poet, author, key developer of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, and visual artist whose collages broach issues of oppression, racism, and political injustice; and a large body of work by Anne Minich, whose abstract mixed-media paintings on wood are inspired by architectural and building elements.
"We often talk about artists in our community who deserve more recognition, and Theodore and Anne both are under-recognized," says Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art. "Theodore Harris takes the idea of collage as a vehicle for political activism, and Anne Minich makes exquisite drawings that, while autobiographical, pull from her love of Philadelphia and deep interest in art history."
Collecting and showing work by African-American and female artists have been part of PAFA's history from the 19th century to the present, up to and including the current exhibition Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis.
PAFA also is dedicated to purchasing and exhibiting work of contemporary artists through the Morris Gallery Program, which is currently showing work by Emil Lukas that includes the newly purchased Contracting Hum. It is a breathtaking example of his so-called "thread paintings," shallow wooden trays over which he crisscrosses thread to create complex, glowing color fields.
Brian Tolle, perhaps best known for his Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, more recently embarked on a "Commander-in-Chief" series of mixed media presidential busts inspired by symbolic aspects of each president's public persona. PAFA's purchase of his No. 1 (First Inaugural Address), an acrylic resin bust of George Washington with a string of glass beads each representing one word of his inaugural address, connects contemporary and conceptual political art to the museum's significant collection of historical portraiture, sculpture, and objects.
Both the Lukas and Tolle acquisitions are important examples of contemporary art pushing the boundaries of painting and sculpture, and are the first works by each artist in PAFA's permanent collection.
"Emil Lukas is taking everyday materials and making them into something I'd say is positively transcendent," Throckmorton says. "Brian Tolle is immersed in history and his work is a great complement to our historic holdings of presidential portraits."