To mark the annual celebration of Women’s History Month in March, The Reading Public Museum hosted an exhibit to highlight exceptional female artists.
“Every time we reinstall a Gallery, we try to do something different, rather than just putting the same works back up on the walls,” said Scott Schweigert, RPM’s art curator. “This time, we thought, let’s dedicate the re-installation of the American Gallery to Women Artists, and quickly realized that we were able to mount an impressive grouping of paintings and sculptures.”
Schweigert noted that RPM has been an important cultural presence in Berks County for over 100 years, highlighting the diverse permanent collection of scientific specimens, cultural artifacts, and fine art that the museum hosts.
The Women’s History Month exhibit features 31 works by 24 different artists, with dates that range from the 1880s all the way up to the 1990s.
“Some of them are old favorites, like Leila by Alice Kent Stoddard, which won the Fellowship Prize when it was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1916,” Schweigert shared. He added that his personal favorite displays include the compelling image entitled Jinny Mae Resting by Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer, and a bronze sculpture of a horse created by sculptor Malvina Hoffman.
When asked why he believed that an exhibit celebrating female artists was an important one for the community to experience, Schweigert shared that The Museum has been collecting works by American female artists since the first year it began acquiring artwork.
“A work by Berks County’s own Mary B. Leisz entered the collection in 1913, the very first year that RPM started collecting works of art (prior to that it had been comprised of scientific specimens and cultural artifacts),” he said.
“There is typically a presence of women artists at all times, but we decided to take this opportunity to shine the light on the depth of our holdings.”
The community’s response to the exhibit has been very positive. “As with many of our exhibitions and gallery installations, folks appreciate the changes that we regularly make,” said Schweigert. “Visitors might walk into a permanent gallery expecting the “same old” installations that they have seen in the past, so we try our best to mix things up a bit and do it in a way that tells a new or different story.”
The exhibition is open now through May 31, 20201, featuring works by Sara Miriam Peale, Mary B. Leisz, Alice Kent Stoddard, Fern Coppedge, Mary Parker Kornhauser, Jane Peterson, Lillian B. Meeser, Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer, Mary Hiester Reid, and Susan Kahn, among others. Paintings include still life, figural studies, portraits, landscapes, and seascapes. The installation also includes sculptures by Anna Hyatt Huntington, Malvina Hoffman, and Sonia Gordon-Brown.
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