The James A. Michener Art Museum announced recent acquisitions that enhance its collection of regional American art. The Michener acquired over 80 works by more than 33 artists in 2022, highlighting its expanded efforts to capture a range of artistic perspectives in both historic and contemporary art practices.
The works span from the 1840s to 2020 and augment the museum’s holdings of some of the Delaware Valley’s most influential artists. Diverse in media, the acquisitions range between sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, decorative arts and photography. The new additions include illustrations by Floyd Cooper; wood sculpture by Wharton Esherick; paintings by Edward Hicks, Allan Freelon, Emma Fordyce MacRae and Antonio Martino; and ceramic work by William Daley and Mariko Swisher.
“Our recent acquisitions reflect our commitment to represent cross-cultural narratives and celebrate the diverse breadth of historic and contemporary art practices in the Delaware Valley,” said Laura Turner Igoe, the Michener’s chief curator.
Author and children’s book illustrator Floyd Cooper (1956-2021) is renowned for his expressive illustrations of Black history and experience. A resident of Easton, he has illustrated over 100 children’s books and received many awards throughout his career, including the 2009 Coretta Scott King Award from the American Library Association.
William Daley (1925-2022) was an influential local ceramicist known for his distinctive emphasis on both the inner and outer surfaces of his unglazed, slab-built vessels. An accomplished artist and teacher, Daley taught ceramics at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia for nearly 40 years. The five new pieces in the Michener’s collection provide an overview of different stages of the artist’s career.
Philadelphia artist and sculptor Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) is considered a founder of the American studio craft movement and is celebrated for his modernist woodworking designs that emphasize the natural shapes and qualities of wood. His sculpture Pizzicato, a gift from the Bok family, is an abstracted portrait of Esherick’s friend, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist and concertmaster Alexander Hilsberg.
Known for his colorful, impressionistic landscape paintings of the Philadelphia area and Gloucester, Massachusetts, Allan Randall Freelon (1895-1960) was a painter, printmaker, educator and civil rights activist who was deeply connected to the Philadelphia art community.
Now a highlight of the Michener’s collection of 19th-century artwork, Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (ca. 1840) by Edward Hicks (1780-1849) is the largest known Treaty painting by Hicks and is closely modeled after Benjamin West’s oil painting. A Bucks County folk painter and Quaker minister, his interpretation of Penn’s Treaty offers insight into historical perspectives toward colonization of Lenape land.
Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974) pursued part of her artistic training at the New York School of Art and first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1918. She was an active member of the Philadelphia Ten from 1937-1945.
Celebrated for his boatyard paintings, Antonio Pietro Martino (1902-1988) was born and raised in Philadelphia in a large, artistic Italian family. He attended the Graphic Sketch Club and the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts (now University of the Arts) and on weekends, he would travel to Bucks County to paint the landscape. Martino was elected as an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1938 and as a National Academician in 1942, one of the highest distinctions awarded to American artists at the time.
Mark Sfirri (b. 1952) is a furniture maker and sculptor known for his skilled use of the multi-axis turning technique. He is professor emeritus at Bucks County Community College, where he ran the Fine Woodworking Program from 1981-2017.
Inspired by ancient pottery and the many patterns and forms found in nature, Mariko Swisher decorates her ceramics with bold geometric designs and organic lines, which she considers an extension of her calligraphy. She was born in Japan and currently lives in Lancaster.