American Art Department Records
Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The American Art Department originated in 1973 with the impetus of America's up-coming Bicentennial and the Museum's Centennial celebrations. The Curator was Darrel Sewell with Beatrice B. Garvan as Assistant Curator. In 1974 David Hanks was also appointed as Curator along with Dorinda Evans as Visiting Curator and Lu D. Bartlett as Assistant Curator. Beatrice Garvan was appointed Associate Curator and Dorinda Evans became the Visiting Curator for the Bicentennial Exhibition in 1975. By 1976 Lu D. Bartlett had left. Kathryn Plummer was appointed the Pennsylvania German Exhibition Coordinator in 1982. At that time (no later than June 1984), the department formally instituted an office for American decorative arts, including objects and architecture. Beatrice Garvan was appointed its curator. Darrel Sewell continued in his curatorial capacity,overseeing the Museum's collection of American paintings and sculpture dating from the 1600s to 1900. In 2002, Sewell became an emeritus member of the staff, and Kathleen A. Foster joined the Museum as Curator of American Art.
Another significant development in the Museum's promotion of American art awareness and scholarship occurred at this time. In the fall of 2002, the Museum received an endowment from Robert L. McNeil, Jr., which allowed for the establishment of The Center of American Art. Its purpose has been to promote the study of this country's artistic and cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on the contributions from the Philadelphia area. To achieve this ambitious agenda, the Center sponsors symposia, lectures, fellowships, publications and research.
Records of the American Decorative Arts Department are maintained as a separate record group in the Archives.
The departmental files document the work of the American Art department, as well as related activities from the 1960s that predate its formal establishment. This series includes the correspondence of David Hanks (1974-1977) and Darrel Sewell (1973-2002), along with research materials compiled by Sewell and his staff. The latter records include checklists, bibliographies, and craft-related topics.
The exhibitions and installations series includes material from 1970 to 2005 and documents several significant exhibitions for the department, including "Three Centuries of American Art" (1976), "Henry Ossawa Tanner" (1991), and "Contemporary American Crafts" (1991).
There are folder-level inventories for most of these records; please see the Archivist for copies.
These materials were arranged and described by Alice Lefton, Bertha Adams, Susan Anderson and Leslie O'Neill in 2011. Funded by a grant from The National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Alice Lefton, Bertha Adams, Susan Anderson and Leslie O'Neill
- Finding Aid Date
- Funded by a grant from The National Historical Publications and Records Commission
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research. Access to institutional records less than 10 years old is at the discretion of the Archivist.
- Use Restrictions
The American Art Department Records are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.
This series includes curatorial correspondence files and research materials compiled by the American Art staff.Physical Description
3.25 linear feet
Includes correspondence files for Curators David Hanks and Darrel Sewell.
The three years of records are arranged alphabetically by correspondent in two folders, A-M and N-Z. They include correspondence between Hanks and Antiques Magazine, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum, the Corning Museum, the National Gallery (D.C.), the St. Louis Art Museum, Winterthur, and various collectors and antique dealers concerning the exhibition, "Three Centuries of American Art."
Includes alphabetically arranged general correspondence files, with some subjects interfiled, including historic houses, Philadelphia research institutions, recommendations, and the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There is also fair amount of subject folders devoted to PMA-related topics and inquiries; the latter is arranged chronologically by year.
Includes general research conducted by Darrel Sewell and staff on various craft-related topics, as well as focused research for the fall 1991 PMA Bulletin issue on Contemporary American Crafts.
Includes checklists, bibliographies, and other research files. Most appear to have been compiled by Kelly Mitchell, Special Assistant for Contemporary Crafts, in preparation for the "Contemporary American Crafts" issue of the PMA Bulletin.
General research files compiled by Darrel Sewell on various craft topics, organizations, and events.
Records of the 1970 exhibition "Made in Philadelphia" begin the series, and other major exhibitions documented include "Three Centuries of American Art," held in 1976 and "Henry Ossawa Tanner," an eponymous retrospective of the 19th century African American artist held in 1991. Also included are craft-related exhibitions, such as "Contemporary American Crafts (1991), "Rudolf Staffel: Searching for Light; Ceramics, 1936-1996" (1997), "The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks" (1999), "Crafting a Legacy" (2004), and "Contemporary Crafts from the Collection" (2005). Other exhibitions documented include an exhibit of recent acquisitions in 1974, followed by "American Family Portraits" (1976), "American Presidential China" (1977), "Winslow Homer Watercolors" (1978), "Currier and Ives Lithographs" (1978), "Thomas Eakins Memorabilia" (1978), and "The University of Pennsylvania: Collector and Patron of Art, 1779-1979" (1979). Additional exhibitions include "Copley from Boston" (1980), "American Presidential China" (1981), "100 Years of Acquisitions" (1983), and "Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: An American Anthology" (1998). The series also includes of the records of various craft installations (1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1998).
- Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Department Records / I. Exhibition records / A. "Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art." Apr. 11-Oct. 10, 1976
5.4 linear feet
In 1970, the American Art department held the exhibition "Made in Philadelphia." The records for the subseries consist of correspondence and memorandums regarding the exhibition and the 1968 Made in Philadelphia exhibition.
On January 29, 1974, the American Art department opened an exhibition of its recent acquisitions. On display were paintings, furniture, and decorative objects from several centuries, and included works by Matthew Pratt, Hiram Powers, Wendell Castle, and Joseph Richardson Silver. The records, from 1974, contain correspondence, news clippings, notes, floorplans, and photographs of the exhibition.
In 1976, the American Art Department organized an exhibition titled, "American Family Portraits." The records for the exhibition consist of an object checklist dated 1975.
To celebrate the bicentennial, the PMA opened the stunning exhibition, "Three Centuries of American Art," on April 11, 1976. On display were 550 objects from the Philadelphia area including paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, costumes, decorative arts, and architecture. Arranged chronologically in 50-year periods, the installation was designed by Venturi and Rauch, a Philadelphia architectural firm. The exhibition was organized by the Curator of American Art, Darrel Sewell, and was funded largely by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Atlantic Richfield Foundation, and the Provident National Bank. The records are largely comprised of lender files. Also included are administrative and planning files that include budget reports, program proposals, and photographs. The bulk of the records date from 1975 to 1976.
American Decorative Arts Department Records / II. Exhibition Records / A. "Three Centuries of American Art." April 11, 1976-October 10, 1976
These records consist primarily of correspondence with institutions and individuals approached for loans for the exhibition. The bulk of the material is from 1975 to 1976.
The administrative and planning files contain records such as budget reports, photographs, program proposals, and publicity files. The records date from 1973 to 1977.
American Presidential China was a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The exhibition was held at the PMA from April 1, 1977 to May 29, 1977, and featured 115 ceramic objects used by the nation's first families, from George and Martha Washington to Gerald and Betty Ford. The records are composed of correspondence between the PMA and SITES, checklists, object descriptions and catalogue drafts.
In February of 1978, the American Art Department opened an exhibition of watercolors by Winslow Homer. The exhibition closed on June 6, 1978. The records include correspondence and object labels.
The records for the exhibition "Currier and Ives Lithographs" consist of object labels for the exhibition.
"Thomas Eakins Memorabilia" was an exhibition of works and documents of Eakins, and his students and friends. It also celebrated the publication of the handbook to the Thomas Eakins Collection. The records contain the object labels for the exhibition.
In 1979, the PMA provided the setting for the exhibition,"The University of Pennsylvania: Collector and Patron of Art, 1779-1979." The exhibition featured works from University's collection and coincided with the celebration of the University's two hundreth anniversary. The records consist of correspondence, object labels and descriptions, as well as copies of the exhibition booklet.
Copley from Boston was an exhibition of 42 paintings, furniture, and decorative arts that was held from April 19, 1980 to June 15, 1980. The exhibition featured paintings by John Singleton Copley, and furniture and silver of his time from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Prior to the exhibition, Copley's work had rarely been shown in Philadelphia. The records general material regarding the preparation of the exhibition, such as correspondence, object lists, grant paperwork, and other planning documentation. Also included are copies of the exhibition booklet.
American Presidential China was an exhibition of official and personal tableware used by presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. Held from September 5, 1981 to January 31, 1982, the exhibition consisted of close to one hundred objects from a private collection in Philadelphia, as well as other pieces lent by Set Charles Momjian. The records consist of planning documentation and contain material such as object lists, exhibition booklets, correspondence, slides, photographs, and research notes. The bulk of the material is dated from 1980 to 1981.
100 Years of Acquisitions was an exhibition held to celebrate the centennial of the Women's Committee. Consisting of 100 objects, one acquired each year, the exhibition included works by Winslow Homer and Frank Stella. In consultation with Anne d'Harnoncourt and curatorial staff, Curator Darrel Sewell selected the 100 objects from the more than 600,000 objects in the collection today. The records, dated from 1982 to 1983, include correspondence, publicity material, conservation documents, and budget reports.
In the fall of 1986, the American Art Department held a craft installation. Featured were pieces by Wendell Castle, Rudolph Staffel, and Beatrice Wood. The records consist of a list of objects in the installation.
In December of 1987, the American Art Department featured an installation of contemporary crafts. On display were works by artists such as Toshicko Tazaeu, Rudolf Staffel, William Daley, and Rose Cabat. The records contain general planning and installation documentation and include object lists, correspondence, images, and research notes. The files are from 1987 and 1988.
Contemporary American Crafts was an exhibition that was held from November 7, 1990 to June 30, 1991. The exhibition featured ceramics, glass, metal, wood, and textile by artists such as Dale Chihuly, Beatrice Wood, Yvonne Bobrowicz, and Peter Voulkos. Organized by Darrel Sewell, Curator of American Art, and Ivy Barsky, special assistant for crafts, the exhibition was drawn from the PMA's permanent collection. The records contain general material that includes correspondence, floorplans, object lists, and news clippings. Also within the records are workorders and loan object files.
"Henry Ossawa Tanner" was a major exhibition held at the PMA from January 20, 1991 to April 14, 1991. The exhibition was a retrospective of Henry Ossawa Tanner's work, and included both paintings and drawings. Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, raised in Philadelphia, and later settled in France for the remainder of his life. Curated by Darrel Sewell and Dewey F. Mosby, the exhibition included works lent by private and public collections. The records contain numerous drafts of the catalogue, press releases, slides and photographs, and a list of Tanner's artwork. Also included is a videotape of the exhibition. The bulk of the records date from 1990 to 1991.
Restricted at the discretion of the archivist.
In the summer of 1991, the American Art Department held a reinstallation of contemporary crafts. The file for the exhibition contains memorandums, object lists, and floorplans.
From February 29, 1992 to June 21, 1992, the American Art Department held an installation of ceramics to conicide with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NECEA) conference being held in Philadelphia. The records consist of general planning material, and included correspondence, memorandums, and object notes and descriptions.
In the fall of 1994, the American Art Department organized a contemporary craft installation in the North Auditorium Corrider. On display were works by Toshiko Takaezu, George Nakashima, and Robert Winokur. The records include exhibition photographs, object lists, and memorandums.
In October of 1995 the American Art Department featured an installation of contemporary American crafts. The records include correspondence, memorandums, object lists and labels.
"Rudolf Staffel: Searching for Light; Ceramics, 1936-1996," was a stunning exhibition of Philadelphia artist Rudolf Staffel's work in porcelain. Th exhibition, held from May 3, 1997 to August 3, 1997, featured close to 80 works that also included 40 of Staffel's signature pieces he called "Light Gatherers." The exhibition was previously shown at the Museum of Applied Arts in Helsinki, Finland. The records contain loan letters and agreements, photographs, and copies of the exhibition catalogue. Also included is the planning documentation which consists of material such as correspondence, object lists, and research notes. The bulk of the records date from 1996 to 1997.
The exhibition, "Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: An American Anthology," was a major traveling exhibition that premiered at the PMA. Organized by the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, the exhibition featured paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations created by 31 American self-taught artists, including Grandma Moses, Thornton Dial, and Horace Pippin. The records contain object lists, checklists, memorandums, and tour itineraries.
In August of 1998, a contemporary craft installation was organized by the American Art Department. On display were works by Warren MacKenzie, David Ellsworth, and John McQueen. The records contain object lists and also include an exhibition photograph.
"The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks" was a magnificent exhibition of the works of the best known American folk painters, Edward Hicks. On display was The Peaceable Kingdom, as well as rural landscapes and pastoral scenes. Additionally, the exhibition also featured letters in the artist's hand, his artist's palette, and two copies of his published memoirs. The exhibition was organized by The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and curated by Darrel Sewell. The records consist of correspondence, object lists, loan agreements, and research material and notes. Also included is exhibition training material.
"Crafting a Legacy: Contemporary American Crafts in the Philadelphia Museum of Art," featured a selection of objects from the Museum's contemporary collection and included ceramics, fiber, glass, furniture, wood, and metalwork. The pieces were created by both local and national artists suchs as Rudolf Staffel, Joyce Scott, and Michael Olszewski. The exhibition also commemorated twenty five years of collecting crafts at the PMA and also the role of The Women's Committee of the Museum. The records consist of object lists and descriptions, planning documentation, and catalogue checklists and essays.
"Contemporary Crafts from the Collection" was an exhibition of over 30 objects in the North Auditorium Gallery. The exhibition highlighted postwar and contemporary crafts from the United States and Japan. Featured were pieces by Wendell Castle, Viola Frey, Rudolf Staffel, and Olaf Skoogfors. The records consist of the exhibition labels.