#Flashback Friday – Alumni Spotlight: Donald Erik Chandler

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

Donald Erik Chandler (1922-2005) was a creative artist who had a long professional career creating some of America’s most iconic characters.

Before becoming an artist, Chandler proudly served in the United States Navy during World War II. After he was honorably discharged on December 18, 1945, he applied to numerous art schools including the Corcoran School of Arts and Design in Washington D.C. and San Francisco State College.

Student academic file for Donald E. Chandler, RG.03.03.02, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Archives

Almost two years after being discharged, Chandler applied to and was granted enrollment to PAFA with the support of the GI Bill. At PAFA, Chandler studied sculpture and went on to win the Stewardson Sculpture Competition Prize in 1949.

Donald E. Chandler’s 1949 Stewardson Sculpture Competition Prize

After completing his training at PAFA, Chandler began his career as a technical illustrator to work on America’s Apollo program. Perhaps Chandler’s most notable and recognizable contribution was actually in the American film industry 25 years after leaving PAFA. His first big break was his 25 foot sculpture of a great white shark for the 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws. The following year, Chandler with a team of sculptors created a 40 foot tall King Kong sculpture used in the film. Other pop culture characters include his assistance on creating the Pillsbury Doughboy and characters for McDonalds–the Hamburglar, Grimmace, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook, the Fry Guys and the Hamburger Patch.

After Chandler’s death in 2005, his family made a contribution to name a school studio in honor of his memory. Even after all these years, his legacy still lives on here at PAFA in studio #1018. Thadius Taylor, a BFA + Certificate student is currently using the space to create art.

Don Chandler’s second cousin, Jeff Chandler, reached out to PAFA’s archives a few years ago to start the research process of compiling Chandler’s biographical information. Jeff recently published a short story about the artist’s personal and professional life and donated a copy of the book to the archives. Those interested in reading the book should contact the archives or you can access the digital copy here.

Museum Techniques – Transporting Art

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

Continuing the blog series on museum techniques, today’s topic is about housing and the transportation of art.

It all started a few months ago when three curators from the Library Company of Philadelphia visited the Center to conduct research on their upcoming exhibition, William Birch, Ingenious Artist opening May 1, 2018.


The curators examined some of PAFA’s William Russell Birch miniatures and selected the ones they wished to loan for their exhibition. It is hard to tell from the above image, but if you look closely, the original housing of the miniatures were simple archival boxes. This type of housing is fine for long-term storage, but inadequate for transportation. Although the Library Company is located only 8 blocks away from PAFA, transporting such fragile works is still challenging.

The loan of the objects provided an opportunity to create new custom housing for the miniatures. Not only would the project make transporting the objects safer, but the new enclosures will ensure the objects are well preserved once they are returned to PAFA for long-term storage.

Creating the custom enclosures required some thought and a lot of patience. Liz McDermott, PAFA’s Conservation Technician, had to pay special attention to how other people would handle the materials during the multiple phases of the exhibition–transportation, installation and deinstallation, repackaging, and delivery.

Features include separate lift tabs for easy access, Tyvek lining to prevent abrasion, and ethafoam and volara foam to absorb shock and create a sturdy environment within the box. While it is impractical to create custom enclosures for all of works of art, in this particular case, it was a great opportunity for me to upgrade the housing for these amazing works of art.

New Digital Collection – Annual Watercolor Exhibition photograph collection

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is happy to announce that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ Annual Watercolor Exhibition photograph collection has been digitized and available online on PAFA’s Digital Archives.

[Installation photograph of the 8th Annual Water Color Exhibition, 1910]
Until 1903 the annual exhibitions included oils, watercolors, prints, drawings, and sculpture. In 1904 watercolors, prints, and drawings were segregated into a separate annual exhibition. The annual exhibitions of watercolors, prints, and drawings were cosponsored by the Philadelphia Watercolor Club and the Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters. Thus, from 1904 to 1953, the Academy mounted two annual exhibitions.