Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives & Collections
As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” For this reason, archivists play an essential role in preserving the memory and legacy of people, places, and things. Archivists are only one part of the equation. We need the help of scholars, historians, genealogists, and curators to guide our decisions on what materials should be preserved for posterity.
But what happens when records are not preserved? Moreover, who gets to be remembered and who is forgotten?
Using PAFA’s archives, I have been assisting the descendant of Susan H. Bradley (1851-1929) conduct genealogical research. Together, our work attempts to raise awareness of Bradley’s influence on the Philadelphia and Boston art scene during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Archives is happy to announce that staff have recently completed organizing and uploading two new digital collections.
The first digital collection of 627 photographs are part of the Alumni Gallery photographs. The photographs document the exhibition openings for 10 alumni gallery exhibitions from 2011-2014. The Alumni Gallery exhibits works by alumni from all of PAFA’s matriculating programs. Located within the Historic Landmark Building, the Alumni Gallery offers a contemporary view of PAFA’s longstanding traditions in art-making and is always free and open to the public.
The second digital collection is the Annual Student Exhibition and Graduation photographs which consists of 9498 photographs. The collection documents various year end events for students, specifically the Annual Student Exhibition; Preview Party; public opening; award and prize ceremony; luncheon; graduation and commencement ceremony; as well as alumni reunion party.
Many people may not know that PAFA was originally located in another section of Philadelphia. More specifically, in Philadelphia’s Market East neighborhood on Chestnut St. between 10th and 11th streets.
The neighborhood has dramatically changed since the early-mid 19th century but one of our neighbors remains to this day. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1823 and still stands at 19 S. 10th Street Philadelphia, PA 19105.
Recently, the church’s historian/curator Suzanne L. stumbled upon a large painting in the church with a PAFA label on the back. Naturally, she contacted me to facilitate research assistance.
We didn’t have a lot of information to work from but two historians, Suzanne and I, are better than one! We knew PAFA’s Annual Exhibition (1811-1969) would be the first place to begin our research. The label suggests the painting was at PAFA in April, the month the Annual Exhibitions were usually held.
The painting in question included a baptismal font that was created circa 1856-1857 and donated to the church a few years later in 1859-1860. We were able to date the painting using these details. The painting was not signed so there was no name to search. It did include a monogram but it was a bit difficult to decipher.
We knew the image was an interior of the church, so the title of the painting should include the name of the church, St. Stephen’s. We browsed the Annual Exhibition catalogs and painting registers. After sifting through hundreds of names, titles, and donors, we finally located information that would verify the paintings provenance!
Just from this one item in the archives’ collection, we were able to verify a number of facts:
Titled, Oil Painting, Interior of St. Stephen’s Church, Philadelphia
A. Zeno Shindler, artist
The painting was registered number 170
Annual Exhibition catalog number was 364
Painting was for sale for $250, but did not sell and returned to the artist
Armed with this newfound information, Suzanne knew her work was not complete. The next phase of her research was to conduct more research on the artist and figure out how the painting eventually made it to the church since it was never sold at the exhibition.
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.
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.
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.
PAFA Alumna Njideka Akunyili Crosby was announced as one of the winners of the prestigious 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant.” In honor of the award, PAFA has hung her monumental two panel work, I Always Face You, Even When it Seems Otherwise. Now on View in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building at PAFA.
It took extra hands to hang such a large work. Our Team consisted of Liz McDermott, Michael Gibbons, Mark Knobelsdorf, and myself.
The MacArthur fellowships are awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to extraordinarily creative people who inspire the masses.
The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is excited to announce the recent acquisition of George Harding Sr. papers. Harding (1882-1959), a former PAFA student and faculty member for nearly 40 years was a prominent American illustrator.
The collection includes photographs, correspondence, clippings, sketches, drawings, and diaries documenting his life as a student, war artist, illustrator and author.
The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is excited to announce the recent acquisition of the Giuseppe Donato collection. Donato (1881-1965) studied at PAFA from 1897 to 1903. After completing his training at PAFA, he traveled to Paris to study under the great sculptor Auguste Rodin. Returning to America, he had many public art commissions including the west pediment of the1940 Philadelphia Municipal Court and a statue completed in 1946 of Thomas Fitzsimmons, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution, which stands today in Philadelphia’s Logan Square.
The collection provides comprehensive documentation of Giuseppe Donato’s career as a sculptor from 1897-1965. Black and white photographs make up the bulk of the collection but correspondence and clippings also provide contextual information to Donato’s sculpture projects throughout his career.