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Explore the Exhibition

Modernism was more than a movement or a style—it was a feeling, an outlook, and, for some, a way of life. Artists grappled with what it meant to be Modern and what it was to be American. These selected works from the exhibition show the stylistic diversity and the beautiful chaos of innovation that made this period so dynamic.


Modern Life

Work, technology, the economy, architecture, world affairs, leisure activities—all were transformed in the first half of the twentieth century. Artists of the Modern movement looked at the changing world around them and tried to capture the newness of these experiences through both the style and the subjects of their work.



Rhythm, Light & Sound

“I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way.”

—Georgia O’Keeffe

In the 1910s, some artists began to move away from using paint in traditional ways to capture what they saw. They also began experimenting with more avant-garde approaches to representing fleeting experiences. Instead of using color, line, and shape to recreate objects and places, they employed these tools to depict the sensations of movement, light, and sound. Their art became less literal and more abstract.



Close-Up on Still Life

One of the most traditional subjects in the history of art is the still life, a work of art that depicts everyday objects. Historically, still lifes were an exercise in accurate representation, sometimes infused with symbolism. Modernists pushed the boundaries of the still-life tradition in both subject matter and style. They tried to capture the essence of objects, showing them in a fresh light, inspiring viewers to look for the extraordinary in the commonplace.



A Modern Palette

“A painting is beautiful for its felicitous harmony of colors just as music is beautiful for its harmony of tunes. Nothing more or less should be sought.”

—Arthur B. Carles

Setting aside old rules about accurate representation in painting, some Modernists gravitated toward surprising juxtapositions of color. They replaced colors found in the natural world with ones that were meant to reveal feeling, emotions, and a new sensibility about what was possible in art. The most influential of these pioneers in the Philadelphia area was Arthur B. Carles, for whom subject matter was secondary to color.



Nature Abstracted

“The inherent magic in the appearance of the world about me, engrossed and amazed me.

—Marsden Hartley

It is easiest to point to “American-ness” in Modern painting in works by artists who focused on the landscapes of the United States. Particularly distinctive locations, such as the dramatic views of New Mexico that fascinated Marsden Hartley and Georgia O’Keeffe, served as the basis for a long-standing tradition of American landscape painting. Modernists tried to infuse their work with the spirit of these sites. They veered away from traditional representation to convey the essence and power of these places.



Urban Geometry

“Look at the skyscrapers! Has Europe anything to show more beautiful than these!”

—Marcel Duchamp

The building materials introduced by industrialization forged an entirely new world. Many Modernists found inspiration in the geometry of the skyscraper. Others were drawn to the industrial architecture of factories, grain silos, and oil refineries. These forms influenced artists working in a broad range of media: painters emphasized planes and angles, photographers and printmakers captured the energy of the city in black-and-white, and designers created furniture and objects to reflect the aesthetic of Modern offices and homes.



The Animated Figure

In traditional academic art training, the goal was to teach how to depict the figure accurately or in a convincing way. Once again, Modernists went beyond convention and invented new ways to explore a familiar subject. Recognizable features were flattened, multicolored, drawn into other forms, or merged into their surroundings. Artists influenced by Cubism began to show bodies and faces from multiple perspectives at one time. Even more abstract representations followed, by artists like Arshile Gorky, Willem de Koonig, and Jackson Pollock, who ultimately left the figure behind and ended up at the heart of Abstract Expressionist movement.

A variety of special events are happening in conjunction with this exhibition, for members and the public alike.

Family Programs

Baby Bird Playdate
July & August: Tuesdays & Fridays at 10:15 a.m.
Tours meet in Education Studios 1 & 2
Best for toddlers and their grown-ups

Play at the Museum with your little ones and enjoy music, art making, and gallery walks.​

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash

Exhibition Tours

Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950

Enjoy a guided tour of Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950.

  • Tuesday, July 24, 2018, Starts at 2:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 25, 2018, Starts at 12:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 26, 2018, Starts at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, July 27, 2018, Starts at 12:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 28, 2018, Starts at 12:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m.

Family Programs

Wednesday Night Family Studio
Free after Pay What You Wish admission

​Stay up late and make some art before bedtime.

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash
  • Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 1, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Members-Only

Exhibition Tour: Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950
Meet in Lenfest Hall (West Entrance).

Explore the exhibition Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950 and see how artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Jacob Lawrence challenged convention and forged bold new styles.

  • Sunday, July 29, 2018, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. (SOLD OUT)
  • Saturday, August 11, 2018, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
  • Thursday, August 16, 2018, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
  • Tuesday, August 21, 2018, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
  • Sunday, August 26, 2018, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

Friday Nights

Farid Barron
Friday, August 3, 2018
5:00 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Performances at 5:45 and 7:15 p.m.
Great Stair Hall

Best known for his work with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Farid Barron brings his trademark sound to ragtime and stride piano melodies of the 1910s.

​Offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950

Members-Only

Members’ Book Club: The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
Museum Library, Perelman Building

Join a discussion of the fantasy classic The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington. This talk will be led by a member of our Library staff.

To join our book club mailing list, email memberservices@philamuseum.org.

​Offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950
  • Saturday, August 4, 2018, 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Family Programs

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Great Stair Hall, 1st floor
Free after Pay What You Wish admission

Grammy Award nominees Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could bring their infectious, high-energy rock ’n’ roll to the Great Stair Hall.

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash
  • Sunday, August 5, 2018, Starts at 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m.

Family Programs

Stroller Tour
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Tours meet in Lenfest Hall (West Entrance)
Best for grown-ups with babies

Parents and caregivers with babes in tow are always welcome in our galleries, and we're making it a bit easier for you with our stroller tours. If the baby fusses don't fret—you'll be in good company.

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash

Friday Nights

Drew Nugent Trio
Friday, August 10, 2018
5:00 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Performances at 5:45 and 7:15 p.m.
Great Stair Hall

Travel back to the Roaring Twenties with ​the Drew Nugent Trio.

​Offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950

Family Programs

Family Art Workshop: Paint the Town (ages 4–7 with an adult)
Saturday, August 11, 2018
10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
South Terrace Education Classrooms B
Paid reservations required
$20 ($16 members) per child, per class
Adults must register as well and are free with admission.

In this studio class for kids and their grown-ups, roll up your sleeves and paint a modern canvas.​

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash

Family Programs

Family Art Workshop: Paint the Town (ages 8–12 with an adult)
Saturday, August 11, 2018
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
South Terrace Education Classrooms B
Paid reservations required
$20 ($16 members) per child, per class
Adults must register as well and are free with admission.

In this studio class for kids and their grown-ups, roll up your sleeves and paint a modern canvas.​

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash

Family Programs

Evening Stroller Tour
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Tours meet in Lenfest Hall (West Entrance)
Best for grown-ups with babies
Free after Pay What You Wish admission

​Fussy baby? Don’t sweat it—this evening stroller tour is made just for you.

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash

Friday Nights

The Ladybugs
Friday, August 17, 2018
5:00 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Performances at 5:45 and 7:15 p.m.
Great Stair Hall

This quartet infuses songs from the 1930s with country, blues, Latin, and classical music.

​Offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950

Family Programs

Sensory-Friendly Mornings
Great Stair Hall Balcony, 2nd floor
Reservations required
Space is limited. To reserve your spot, email .

These mornings are specially designed for children on the autism spectrum or who have other sensory sensitivities. The lights, volume, and crowds are turned down but not the fun or creativity.

​Offered in conjunction with Art Splash
  • Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
  • Saturday, August 25, 2018, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Friday Nights

Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble
Friday, August 24, 2018
5:00 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Performances at 5:45 and 7:15 p.m.
Great Stair Hall

This ensemble brings us the sounds of the 1940s, highlighting classics by Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Dexter Gordon, and more.

​Offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950

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