Just last week, my husband Art and I traveled back east to attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival. I have had a shop there for over 33 years and attend one weekend each 9 week season. It’s great fun and I love seeing all my Maryland friends and fans.
I always piggyback a few days of museum visits to my East Coast trip and this year we flew into Philadelphia for three nights and two culturally rich museum days in Philadelphia. Prior to our trip, I contacted PAFA, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts to request a visit to the student painting classrooms and galleries that are not open to the public. Thomas Eakins, one of America’s most important ‘realist painters, photographers, sculptors and fine arts educator,’ studied and was a professor and director here from the early 1880’s. ‘Owing to Eakins’ devotion to working from life, the Academy’s course of study was by the early 1880s’ the most “liberal and advanced in the world.” (Wikipedia)
His sister Frances Eakins Crowell is my great grandmother and many of Thomas Eakins’ paintings and photographs are of my relatives, the Crowell family. He would visit his sister and her brood of 10 children on their Avondale Pennsylvania mushroom farm where my grandfather grew up and I remember my grandfather telling stories of his uncle Tom.
Mentioning my maiden name Crowell immediately gained me a private entrance and tour to the working classrooms. The PAFA Museum is open to the public and houses a wonderful collection of art including Thomas Eakins’ monumental work, The Gross Clinic. Our tour of the PAFA studios and museum was for 1:00 P.M. on a Thursday and Collin, a current painting student escorted us through the upstairs painting and sculpture classrooms, a few of the student work spaces and finally into the museum. I had visited the school previously in 2003 with our son John who at that time was just eleven but I wanted to share this experience with my husband Art.
I am fascinated by Thomas Eakins life and work and although I am aware that many a skeleton hides in our families closets, I am proud to be of the Crowell/Eakins lineage.
This Leopold Seyffert oil is one of many delicious paintings in the PAFA Museum.
The day before visiting PAFA, Art and I met with my friend, Elizabeth who works for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and spent several wonderful hours touring this world class museum that has a substantial collection of works by Thomas Eakins.
Although our focus was on art, we spent a morning in the heart of Old Philadelphia visiting Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Elfreth Alley and a few independent art galleries. A surprisingly wonderful find was the Arch Enemy Gallery. We were tempted to purchase a painting by Kit Mizeres but our favorite was already sold. The gallery bathroom had wonderful murals on it’s walls.
Their gallery manager suggested we visit the Barnes Foundation Museum which proved to have a marvelous eclectic collection of Impressionistic paintings, Pennslavania Dutch furniture and metal work, and odd surprises curated in an intimate setting. No photos were allowed inside the museum but the grounds were beautiful and their reflecting pool filled with tethered plastic swans.