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Palmer Museum announces fall exhibition openings that highlight Pennsylvania artists
Melissa Meyer, Charade 57, 2003, watercolor monotype, 36 ¾ x 49 5/8 inches. Gift of The Fishman-MacElderry Collection, 2017.13.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.- Object Lessons: American Still-Life Painting in the Nineteenth Century opens September 4 in the first-floor special exhibitions gallery. The show highlights the rich tradition of still-life painting in the United States with an emphasis on Pennsylvania’s influential role in that history. The twenty-two works featured in Object Lessons explore a variety of themes – from the brevity of life, to the bounty of the continent, to the poetic power and meaning of the commonplace. Rarely seen loans from private collectors complement the holdings of the Palmer to explore how flowers, fruit, and simple household items have transfixed and beguiled viewers from the nineteenth century to the present day.

“The Palmer is committed to presenting exhibitions that explore different periods and styles in American art,” said Erin Coe, Director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “This exhibition places masterworks from the collection in dialogue with loans from private hands to better understand the development and cultural significance of still-life painting in the nineteenth century, when the genre was at its height of popularity.”

Pennsylvania artists were at the forefront of the still-life genre, and the exhibition features works by a number of painters local to or identified with the Commonwealth, notably William Michael Harnett, Albert F. King, Rubens Peale, John Frederick Peto, and Severin Roesen. Object Lessons also includes a varied roster of important artists who gravitated toward depicting inanimate objects amid the rising commodity culture and cosmopolitan networks of the Gilded Age, among them William Mason Brown, William Merritt Chase, Charles Caryl Coleman, Martin Johnson Heade, and Elihu Vedder.

“The exhibition not only brings together a distinguished group of artists who excelled at still-life painting, but it is also an opportunity to consider premier, though seldom exhibited, examples by them,” said Adam Thomas, Curator of American Art at the Palmer.

On August 28, the Palmer opened Instinctive Gestures: Recent Gifts from the Fishman-MacElderry Collection. The intimate, yet bright and exuberant exhibition spotlights twelve works from the important gift of paintings, works on paper, and prints by contemporary artists donated to the Palmer in 2016 by Marilyn Fishman and James MacElderry. Though distinctly individualistic, all of the works share a visual language indebted to the same painterly freedom and spontaneity of gestural abstraction.

Fishman and MacElderry began collecting prints and other works on paper soon after they married in 1977, and they have dedicated the last forty years to acquiring works with “a real visceral impact.” Instinctive Gestures attests to the couple’s predilection for pieces that are colorful, seemingly improvisational, and lyrically calligraphic in nature. Several artists represented in the exhibition have forged their careers in the vicinity of Philadelphia, where major institutions like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of the Arts have contributed to a rich environment for art students and professional artists alike.

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