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Michener Art Museum celebrates additions to permanent collection


The James A. Michener Art Museum marked its 35th anniversary year with the addition of 62 artworks by 26 artists to its permanent collection, demonstrating its continued commitment to representing the diverse community of artists with ties to the greater Delaware Valley and Bucks County region.

Of the 26 artists collected, 12 are new to the museum’s collection, 12 are women artists, and six are artists of color. The works span from the early 1900s to 2020. Diverse in media, the acquisitions encompass sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, decorative arts, and photography.

“These acquisitions represent a variety of perspectives and generations, reflecting the breadth and depth of artistic expression in the Delaware Valley region,” said Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator Laura Turner Igoe. “We are proud to share these works with our patrons and invite our community to join us in appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of our area.”

The acquisitions, which were completed throughout 2023, include:

•“Bloodline” (2015), a monumental sculpture by Holly Wilson (b. 1968). An enrolled member of the Delaware Nation and descendant of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Wilson is a multi-media artist whose work narrates both family history and personal experiences.

Recently on view in the 2023 exhibition “Never Broken: Visualizing Lenape Histories,” “Bloodline” tells a powerful and complicated story of generational loss, survival, and resilience through a series of cast bronze figures representing multiple generations of the artist’s family, traversing a cut locust branch.

The acquisition of “Bloodline” demonstrates the Michener’s commitment to provide a space for perspectives of the Lenape, the Indigenous people of the land on which the museum stands.

•Eight paintings by regional women artists donated by Doylestown collector Janet Macrae, including work by Theresa Bernstein (1985-2002), Alice B. Doughton (1880-1969), Jesse Drew-Bear (1877-1962), Mildred Bunting Miller (1892-1964), and Clara Stroud (1890-1984).

From “Columbus Circle at Christmas” (ca. 1925) by Bernstein to a harbor scene, “Drying Sails” (not dated) by New Jersey-based Doughton, this donation underscores the variety of styles and subjects pursued by these important artists in the early 20th century. This gift strengthens the museum’s collection of women Impressionist artists, an area in which the Michener has been actively collecting over the past few years.

•Three paintings by James Brantley (b. 1945), including “Jet Stream” (2013), a large work depicting an expansive cloudy blue sky interrupted only by the moon and a sharp line of exhaust from a plane. Brantley is a figure, portrait, and landscape painter specializing in acrylics in an impressionistic style. He was a member of the internationally known Black artist collective Recherché (meaning “rare”) founded in 1983.

•“Yesterday’s Dreams Are Real” (1996), a mixed media piece by Moe Brooker (1940-2022). Born in Philadelphia, Brooker, like James Brantley, was a member of the artist collective Recherché. Layers of vibrant color, bright geometric patterns, and energetic lines characterize his abstract compositions. This is the first work by Brooker to enter the Michener’s collection.

•Four pieces by Reba Dickerson-Hill (1918-1994), featuring watercolor, mixed media, and sumi-e ink. While versatile in numerous media, Dickerson-Hill was well-known for her adaptation of sumi-e painting, a Japanese ink wash technique that typically depicts scenes of the natural environment in calligraphic style.

Her skillful use of this technique is evident in “Five O’Clock Shadows” (1958-59) and “Edge of Night” (ca. 1980). She also created works in watercolor, oil paint, woodprint, and sculpture, and her subjects ranged from landscape and portraiture to abstract art.

•Two paintings, an untitled urban landscape (1970) and “Still Life” (1969), by Humbert Howard (1905-1990). Howard explored abstraction, texture, and color through different themes and subjects. He attended Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania and worked for the Works Progress Administration in Philadelphia in the 1930s as a painter and ceramicist.

He used his mailman delivery route to make regular visits to Philadelphia art clubs like the Plastic Club, the Sketch Club, and artist studios. Howard was the exhibition director of the Pyramid Club, an African American social club, in Philadelphia from 1940-58.

•“Aspiration” (2007-08) and “Three Nudes” (2006-07), two bronze sculptures celebrating the female figure by the New Hope-based artist George R. Anthonisen (b. 1936). Well-versed in history and current events, Anthonisen creates sculptural dialogues that investigate the human condition and people’s capacity to destroy, to create, to question, and to make noble choices. He is known for his thoughtful and sometimes haunting content and for championing the elegance and strength of the female form.

These two sculptures were donated to the Michener in memory of one of the artist’s patrons, William J. Smart, and they are featured in the exhibition “George R. Anthonisen: Meditations on the Human Condition,” on view at the Michener from April 20 – Oct. 13.

•A painting, “PPG Portland” (2004) and a pastel, “Water Tower Combine #1” (2002), by Charlotte Schatz (1929-2023). During the mid-1990s, Schatz became interested in the neglected and abandoned buildings in the Northern Liberties neighborhood in Philadelphia where her studio was located.

She painted these industrial factories with bright colors, geometric shapes, and bold lines, in a style reminiscent of Precisionist painters Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and Elsie Driggs. These two paintings will be displayed in the Michener’s upcoming fall 2024 exhibition, “Charlotte Schatz: Industrial Strength.”

Other 2023 acquisitions include artworks by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938), Letitia Maxwell Ely (1886-1967), Daniel Garber (1880-1958), John Folinsbee (1892-1972), Alan Goldstein (b. 1938), Nathan Margolis (1908-1964), Mira Nakashima (b. 1942), Peter Paone (b. 1936), Harry Rosin (1897-1973), Barbara Schaff (1941-2022), Ben Solowey (1900-1978), Ethel Wallace (1886-1968), Paula Colton Winokur (1936-2018), and Robert Winokur (1933-2020).

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