Penn Libraries Events & Exhibitions
In The News

Press Release

For Further Press Information and Images:
Fleischman Gerber & Associates


Wharton Esherick (1887-1970)—regarded by many as the founder of the American Studio Furniture Movement—is the subject of a major, multi-site, interdisciplinary exhibition opening on September 7, 2010 in the Kamin and Kroiz Galleries of the University of Pennsylvania. Organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, in collaboration with Penn's School of Design, the Wharton Esherick Museum (Paoli, PA), and Hedgerow Theater (Rose Valley, PA), Wharton Esherick and the Birth of the American Modern, the first major examination of the artist's work in over fifty years, will survey the remarkable range of this artist's achievement during the critical early years of his career through lively installations of furniture and artwork.

On view at Penn from September 7, 2010 through February 13, 2011, the exhibition presents over 100 of the artist's works from the 1920s and 1930s, including furniture, sculpture, woodblock prints, drawings, and paintings, as well as period photography, correspondence, and ephemera that explore the rich contexts and friendships through which Esherick's art developed and flourished.

Trained as an illustrator and painter, Esherick's experiences in modern theater and dance, his exposure to new ideas in philosophy, politics, and literature, and his experiments in carving and printmaking laid the foundation for his emergence as an artist of remarkable range—from painting and woodblock prints to set designs, furniture, and architecture. He and his community of friends, including writers Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson and avant-garde theater director Jasper Deeter, created an artistic circle in which radical new ideas flourished, shaping and forging new paths for American Modernism.

"Esherick saw himself as an artist, not a craftsman—a modernist sculptor for whom furniture was a kind of sculpture," says Paul Eisenhauer, curator of the Wharton Esherick Museum. As Esherick himself succinctly put it, "Some of my sculpture went into the making of furniture."

The official opening and reception will be on October 1, 2010, in conjunction with a symposium exploring the theme of the exhibition, which will run through October 2. Named the Second Annual Anne d'Harnoncourt Symposium, in honor of the late director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it will be held on the University of Pennsylvania campus. In connection with the exhibition, Hedgerow Theatre will present a theatrical revival of the dramatic adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, which had its U.S. premiere at Hedgerow in 1935, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will showcase an installation of Esherick works from its collection. Other events include printing workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and a performance by the Pennsylvania Eurythmy Ensemble. For more information, visit www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/esherick.html.

The exhibition is organized by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, in collaboration with the Architectural Archives of Penn's School of Design, the Wharton Esherick Museum, and Hedgerow Theater.

Wharton Esherick and the Birth of the American Modern has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Additional support comes from the Center for American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Department of the History of Art , University of Pennsylvania; the David A. and Helen P. Horn Charitable Trust; John and Robyn Horn; and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Kamin Gallery
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
First floor
Kroiz Gallery of the Architectural Archives
Fisher Fine Arts Library Building
Lower level

Hours and admission
Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm Admission is free
Hours may vary during University holidays and intersession. For more information, or to schedule special group tours, please contact Lynne Farrington at 215-746-5828 or lynne@pobox.upenn.edu.