21
Jun
09

Exhibition: ‘Skyscrapers: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs of the Early Twentieth Century’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 1st November 2009

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). 'Untitled (New York City)' 1929-33

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Untitled (New York City)
1929-1933
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 x 4 7/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

 

What a fantastic exhibition! Thank you to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for allowing me to reproduce the wonderful photographs below, many from photographers that I have never heard of before.

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

 

Lloyd Ullberg (American, 1904-1996). 'PSFS Building, Philadelphia' c.1932-33

 

Lloyd Ullberg (American, 1904-1996)
PSFS Building, Philadelphia
c. 1932-1933
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 10 x 7 3/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1999

 

 

At the turn of the 20th century when they first began to appear, skyscrapers were seen as symbols of modernity and testaments to human achievement. Stretching the limits of popular imagination, they captured the attention of visual artists working in a variety of mediums. This summer the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Skyscrapers: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs of the Early Twentieth Century, an exhibition that traces the rise of the American skyscraper as an iconic image. The exhibition will feature more than 50 works from the Museum’s collection, dating from 1908 to 1941, which demonstrate the many ways artists chose to portray the new giants in their landscape.

Skyscrapers includes prints by John Marin and Charles Sheeler, photographs by Berenice Abbott and Alfred Stieglitz, and drawings by Earl Horter and Abraham Walkowitz. The works in Skyscrapers reflect a wide range of styles and practices, from Walkowitz’s loosely drawn “New York Improvisations” (1910) to Abbott’s luminous photograph “New York at Night” (c. 1932), which captures the dazzling allure of the city’s glowing evening skyline. The combination of mediums included in the show allows the viewer to consider the relationship between drawing, printmaking, and photography in this dynamic period.

“The visual impact of skyscrapers on the modern urban landscape is unmistakable, and for more than a century artists have been engaging with this theme,” John Vick, The Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs and the exhibition’s organiser, said, noting that the Museum’s collection includes well over 500 works related to skyscrapers. Vick added that “their distinctive contours and exaggerated scale offered artists both a chance to experiment with modernist aesthetics and a subject on which to project personal or collective ideas and emotions.”

The exhibition also offers a view into the interaction of architecture and urban development with art’s role as a form of documentation. Among the famous buildings featured are Chicago’s gothic-ornamented Tribune Tower, New York City’s Art Deco Empire State Building, and Philadelphia’s modernist PSFS Building. An atmospheric etching of a rainy nighttime scene at One Broad Street in Philadelphia by artist Allan Randall Freelon (American, 1895-1960) shows how this important intersection at the heart of the city would have appeared in the 1930s.

The towering, occasionally menacing, physical presence of these structures is a frequent visual theme in the works – whether in Howard Norton Cook’s woodcut “Skyscraper” (1929, below) or Sherril Schell’s photograph “Window Reflection – French Building” dating from 1930-1932. Horter’s graphite drawing “Manhattan Skyline” (1916) shows a row of newly-built towers thrusting skyward in strong, vertical lines and overshadowing the residential rooftops in the foreground, an image that suggests the city’s emergence as a financial and commercial giant.

Other works take a more abstract approach, exploring the visual exciting patterns created by these massive new structures. Such works include Marin’s 1913 and 1917 prints of the Woolworth Building and Herbert Johnson’s aerial photograph of building rooftops from c. 1930-1932.

Philadelphia Museum of Art press release [Online] Cited 19/06/2009 no longer available online

 

Earl Horter (American, 1880-1940) 'Manhattan Skyline' c. 1916

 

Earl Horter (American, 1880-1940)
Manhattan Skyline
c. 1916
Graphite on cream wove paper
Sheet: 11 7/16 x 8 3/4 inches (29.1 x 22.2cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of Carl Zigrosser, 1953

 

 

Like many of the drawings and etchings of New York made by Horter while he lived in the city during the first two decades of this century, this view of the Manhattan skyline was shown in his first one-man exhibition at the New York gallery of Frederick Keppel and Company in 1916. It was organised by Carl Zigrosser, research librarian at Keppel, who later became this Museum’s first curator of prints and drawings. Zigrosser bought the drawing from the exhibition and donated it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art thirty-seven years later.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Wendell MacRae (American, 1896-1980) 'Summer 'c. 1930-32

 

Wendell MacRae (American, 1896-1980)
Summer
c. 1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 6 9/16 x 4 5/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

Stella Simon (American, 1878-1973) '6th Avenue' c. 1930-32

 

Stella Simon (American, 1878-1973)
6th Avenue
c. 1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 3/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

Allan Randall Freelon (American, 1895-1960) 'Number One Broad Street' c. 1934

 

Allan Randall Freelon (American, 1895-1960)
Number One Broad Street
c. 1934
Aquatint with roulette and burnishing
Plate: 11 7/8 × 9 13/16 inches (30.2 × 24.9cm)
Sheet: 15 1/8 × 12 1/16 inches (38.4 × 30.6cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Thomas Skelton Harrison Fund, 1943

 

Sherril Schell (American, 1877-1964)' Buildings on West 35th Street' c. 1930-32

 

Sherril Schell (American, 1877-1964)
Buildings on West 35th Street
c. 1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 8 x 6 5/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

Howard Norton Cook (American, 1901-1980) 'Skyscraper' 1929

 

Howard Norton Cook (American, 1901-1980)
Skyscraper
1929
Woodcut
Image: 17 15/16 x 8 5/8 inches (45.6 x 21.9cm)
Sheet: 19 1/16 x 9 3/4 inches (48.4 x 24.8cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of Carl Zigrosser, 1960

 

Sherril Schell (American, 1877-1964) 'Window Reflection - French Building' c. 1930-32

 

Sherril Schell (American, 1877-1964)
Window Reflection – French Building
c. 1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 15/16 x 6 1/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

Ralph Steiner (American, 1899-1986) 'Untitled (New York City)' 1931

 

Ralph Steiner (American, 1899-1986)
Untitled (New York City)
1931
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet/Mount (With Black Border from Negative): 9 15/16 x 7 15/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'New York at Night' c. 1932

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
New York at Night
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 13 3/8 x 10 5/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of Theodore T. Newbold in memory of Lee Witkin, 1984

 

 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Opening hours
Thursday – Monday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Philadelphia Museum of Art website

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1 Response to “Exhibition: ‘Skyscrapers: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs of the Early Twentieth Century’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art”



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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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