Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

Been to the James A. Michener Art Museum lately? Fall 2011 is the best time to see more than 200 of the finest works in Pennsylvania Impressionism, many from private collections, gathered here for the first time in The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground (October 22, 2011 through April 1, 2012). The fall season not only celebrates Bucks County’s legacy in art, but features international quilt artists (Quilt Art: International Expressions, September 10, 2011 through January 1, 2012) and the abstract meditations of contemporary photographer Nancy Hellebrand (Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand, October 29, 2011 through February 26, 2012). Winter brings the work of Bucks County artist/author/illustrator Mavis Smith (January 14 through May 20, 2012), who builds up layer upon layer of egg tempera for images that have been compared to a single frame of a movie.

In April, a selection of paintings and tapestries from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, by such Renaissance and Baroque masters as Sandro Botticelli, Parmigianino, Lorenzo Monaco, Guercino and Cristofano Allori is coming to the United States for the first time ever (April 21 through August 10, 2012). This will be the biggest exhibit in the Michener Art Museum’s history.

Quilt Art: International Expressions
September 10 – December 31, 2011
Fred Beans Gallery

Founded in Britain in 1985, Quilt Art has sought to extend the boundaries of the quilt as an art form and to achieve wider recognition for its member artists. This exhibition of 40 quilts brings together 24 contemporary quilt artists from nine countries, including the U.K., Belgium, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Hungary and the U.S. Each artist is represented in International Expressions by both recent and earlier works and a catalogue of the exhibition is also available.

The diverse cultural backgrounds of the members help to bring various approaches to the craft, such as direct observation or inspiration that comes from very personal or even social issues. As a result, the artwork is dynamic and challenging. Many of the artists first trained in other fields, yet each found the tactile process of patterning, sewing, layering and joining fabric to be an ideal means of self-expression. These artists explore a range of abstract and thought-provoking ideas with an ever-changing variety of surface techniques, combined with color, texture and stitch.

The members of Quilt Art have exhibited internationally. Their work is represented in major museum collections worldwide, and many in the group are well-known lecturers in the field. Integrity of expression and quality craftsmanship has enabled them to establish a unique reputation at the forefront of contemporary textile art.

The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground
October 22, 2011 – April 1, 2012
Paton|Smith|Della Penna-Fernberger, Putman-Smith, and Byers Galleries

Bucks County’s legacy of excellence in the art of canvas and brush is explored in this major exhibition organized by the Michener Art Museum. From the renowned 19th-century painters Edward Hicks and Martin Johnson Heade, to the gifted masters of landscape painting in the first half of the twentieth century, to the lively and inventive New Hope modernists, The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground will feature more than 200 works of art by Bucks County’s best-known historic artists. Drawn from the Philadelphia area’s most prestigious private and institutional collections, the exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the finest paintings by these beloved artists, work that is only rarely made available to the general public. The exhibit will focus particularly on Bucks County’s landscape tradition as embodied in the canvases of Redfield, Garber, Spencer, Coppedge, and their many friends and colleagues who were part of the New Hope art colony.

This unprecedented exhibit will open its doors as the seventh major construction project in the Michener’s 23-year history moves toward completion. Scheduled to open in the spring of 2012, the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion will be a state-of-the-art lecture and event center. Together, the two projects symbolize the Michener’s own legacy of excellence, as the museum has grown from a small regional art center into a nationally-known institutional leader in the Delaware Valley.

Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand
October 29, 2011 – February 26, 2012
Pfundt Gallery

Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand is a series of subtly colored, large-scale photographs combining individual pictures of tree branches. Each picture is more an abstract meditation than a mirror of nature. First, digital files are superimposed to make one combined image, and then several combined images are placed side by side. The images are connected by form, line and color, creating a surprisingly complex view of nature. Some combinations are more obviously interconnected, while others are less so and may even appear quite disjointed. “Either way,” Hellebrand says, “the whole is different from the sum of its parts.”

Nancy Hellebrand has been exhibiting internationally in museum and gallery exhibitions since 1973. She was the first American artist and the first living woman to have a solo photography exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Other museum exhibitions include Tate Britain in London; the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia; and the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography in New York. Hellebrand is represented in many public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery in London. Hellebrand was born in Philadelphia and many of the trees in Learning to See are from Philadelphia and its suburbs.

Mavis Smith: Elegant Mysteries

January 14 – May 20, 2012
Fred Beans Gallery

You’re strolling down a busy sidewalk, absorbed in your thoughts. Suddenly someone walking the other way glances in your direction, you glance back, and your reverie is broken. Two souls meet, briefly, then the moment passes, and without breaking stride you each walk on.

“My work is about that moment,” says painter Mavis Smith — “hinting at a narrative, yet remaining intentionally elusive.” Smith is part storyteller, part portraitist, and part stage director; her images are like single frames of a movie with no beginning and no end, as mysterious figures gaze out at the world with enigmatic calm, surrounded by swimming pools, moody interiors, and distant skies. Often working in the ancient craft of egg tempera, which was used by artists as diverse as Botticelli, Vermeer, and Andrew Wyeth, she slowly builds up layer upon layer of translucent color. The resulting images seem to radiate light from within, making the people who inhabit her luminous world both arresting and slightly surreal. “Mystery combined with elegance is one of my goals,” she says.

Bucks County resident Mavis Smith studied at the Pratt Institute in the 1970s, and has exhibited her work in Holland and Switzerland as well as Santa Fe, New York City, and at several venues in Bucks County. She is also a prolific illustrator and author of children’s books, having authored 10 and illustrated at least 75. Organized by the Michener Art Museum, this exhibition samples a range of Smith’s work, including both paintings and works on paper as well as figurative images, still lifes, and her most recent images of twisted and convoluted tree branches.

Offering of the Angels: Treasures from the Uffizi Gallery
April 21 – August 10, 2012
Paton|Smith|Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries

The work of major Renaissance artists will travel to the Michener Art Museum in the exhibition, Offering of the Angels: Treasures from the Uffizi Gallery, on view from April 21 through August 10, 2012 in the Museum’s Paton|Smith|Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries. Drawn from the holdings of the incomparable Uffizi Gallery in Florence and curated by its Director, Antonio Natali, the exhibition will feature examples of art created between the 15th and 17th Centuries. Oil paintings by legendary artists such as Botticelli, Titian, Tintoretto, Parmigianino, Cristofano, and their contemporaries will be on display along with two tapestries from the same period. 45 master works will depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Organized by Amici degli Uffizi of Florence, Italy, the exhibition has traveled extensively across Europe and will be hosted by a select group of museums in the United States.


So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego
Through October 2, 2011
Paton||Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries

He was a painter who could barely hold a brush. He had to move his entire body to mix his colors. Yet William T. Trego (1858-1909) was a prize-winning artist with an international reputation, and his highly detailed and powerful battle scenes from the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War were widely exhibited and critically acclaimed during the late nineteenth century. Partially paralyzed by a childhood illness, Trego never experienced the horrors of war, but his uncanny ability to portray battle from the point of view of fighting men and horses was much admired.

The first-ever comprehensive exhibit of Trego’s work, So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego, will be on view in the Michener’s Paton | Smith | Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries from June 4th to October 2nd, 2011. Presenting not only the art, but the life of William Trego, the exhibit will place the artist and his work in the context of his times. In addition to his paintings, sketches, drawings and sculpture, some personal effects of the artist, as well as authentic Civil War artifacts and photographs will serve to flesh out the story of Trego’s difficult, sometimes triumphant, and ultimately tragic career.

The exhibit is accompanied by the first ever full-length biography of the artist, and a fully illustrated online catalogue raisonné, both compiled by guest curator, Joseph P. Eckhardt. The book, bearing the same title as the exhibit, So Bravely and So Well, makes use of previously unexplored original source materials as well as studies of Trego’s surviving work. Recently discovered sketches, letters, and family stories have blended with the known facts to form a three-dimensional portrait of a remarkable man unwilling to be limited by his seeming limitations.

This, our third project associated with the Gemmill Fellow program, is made possible by the Warwick Foundation of Bucks County. It’s especially appropriate that the project is occurring under the aegis of the Gemmill Fellow program, since Professor Eckhardt is building on the pioneering work of Helen Gemmill, who was the first scholar to look seriously at the life and work of this underappreciated but highly gifted artist.

Joseph P. Eckhardt is an Emeritus Professor of History at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. His previous work, The King of the Movies; Film Pioneer, Siegmund Lubin, was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in 1998.

The William T. Trego project is sponsored by: Sharon & Syd Martin

Additional support from:
Marguerite Lenfest in Memory of Leonie Herpin
Penn Color, Inc.
The Pfundt Foundation

The Michener Art Museum’s research and publication activities are supported by the Virginia B. and William D. Williams Endowment Fund.

The Helen Hartman Gemmill Fellowship is funded by the Warwick Foundation of Bucks County.

Transmutation and Metamorphosis: The Collages of Ann Irwin
Pfundt Gallery
Through October 16, 2011

In Ann Irwin’s universe, the unexpected becomes commonplace and the commonplace is never exactly what you expect. Houses sprout heads and rays of fire. Hills bristle with stick figures. Trees grow ribs and skulls. These transformations can be both ominous and optimistic, witty and wise; they arose from a life committed to creativity and represented a daily triumph over adversity. Born in 1942 in New York, Irwin grew up in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and studied at the Boston Museum School and the Tyler School of Art. After years of travel, she settled in Bucks County where she apprenticed at the Moravian Tile Works, and began to create highly-detailed, meticulously crafted collages, using old books, fabric, and found objects. Over several decades she quietly produced an extensive body of work, rich in a deeply personal mythology that featured imaginative images of birds, houses, trees, and flowers. In spite of serious and ongoing health problems, she continued to visit her studio every day, making complex works that sometimes expressed her fears and troubles, but were often whimsical and light-hearted as well. Even during her final illness in 2005, when she was confined to a hospital bed for several weeks, she continued to draw and make collages until just a few days before she died. Organized by the Michener Art Museum, this exhibition is drawn from the private collection of Irwin’s family and samples several decades of her collage work.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa. Museum hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm;
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday noon to 5 pm. Admission: Members and children under 6, free; adults $12.50; seniors $11.50; college student with valid ID $9.50; ages 6-18 $6; under 6 free. For more information, visit or call 215-340-9800.

Annual support for the Michener Art Museum is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Bucks County Commissioners and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

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