Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum has two special exhibitions you should see before their engagement is over.
Keeping what’s left of the 12 days of Christmas festive, “Merry and Bright: The Christmas Collection of Jeanette Turnbull” is a selection of vintage and contemporary holiday treasures that includes selections from the Germantown Historical Society that bring 19th century traditions to life through children’s toys, holiday trimmings, a doll house replica of a Germantown home and a sculpture of the Pennsylvania German Christmas figure, the Belsnickel.
Isn’t the Belsnickel like Krampus — someone children don’t want a visit from at Christmas?
A character from German folklore, the Belsnickel can be generous like St. Nicholas, bringing treats for good children. But he also carries a switch with which to strike misbehaving children.
Let me guess. I have till Jan. 7, when Christmas officially ends?
What’s the other exhibit?
“A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance.” A press release from the museum says it’s “the most ambitious exhibition of the work of Violet Oakley (1874-1961) to date,” highlighting “Oakley’s spirit of civic humanism and her prolific accomplishments as a painter, muralist, portraitist, stained glass designer and illustrator.”
In the years before women had the right to vote, the “Red Rose Girl” achieved international fame for her commissions for the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Woodmere Art Museum director Bill Valerio called Oakley’s artwork in the Governor’s Grand Executive Reception Room, Senate Chamber and Supreme Court Chamber “one of the biggest commissions of all time.” He said that it was Oakley’s 1890s murals and stained glass windows at All Angels’ Church in New York that caught the imagination and attention of that city’s architectural community and paved the way for the state government commission. “She realized Edwin Austin Abbey (who died after completing his commission to the capitol’s Entrance Rotunda) was getting paid a lot more than she was, she negotiated for equal pay successfully as a woman,” Valerio said. Also, Oakley was something of an artist-diplomat, promoting world peace as she created portraits of delegates to the League of Nations and the United Nations.
One of the exhibit’s highlights is a previously missing piece of a 13-part mural cycle that had been done by Oakley for the Yarnall House at 17th and Locust streets in Philadelphia. The murals are large canvases that were originally glued into place on the house’s plaster walls. In the early 1970s the Red Cross purchased the Yarnall House in order to turn it into offices, and the murals were removed and given to the Woodmere Museum. However one piece — a pendentive on the subject of modern man creating the skyscraper — just wouldn’t come off the wall.
“The exhibit was an excuse to look and see it it was still there. It had been painted over many times since 1963,” Valerio said. After getting permission from the building’s owner to restore the original mural and remove it, Philadelphia painting conservator Steven Erisoty was tasked with removing decades of house paint.
“It was like a kind of surgery ... chipping away layers of paint with a razor blade,” said Valerio. “He understands Violet well enough that he can do some delicate fill-ins.”
At 3 p.m. Jan. 20, learn about how Oakley’s art and life were shaped by the arts and crafts movement — from her early interests in the English pre-Raphaelites to the establishment of her Cogslea homestead in West Mount Airy. The lecture is titled “Violet Oakley’s Art and Crafts Impulse.”
Take a look at a 14-minute video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD2MHm1THMM.
Interesting. When’s the last day for “A Grand Vision?”
Where is the Woodmere Art Museum?
9201 Germantown Ave. (at Bells Mill Road), Philadelphia.
When is the museum open?
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays (till 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve). Admission is $10, $7 for seniors 55+, free to children, students and members, and free to all on Sundays. For more information go to www.woodmereartmuseum.org or call (215) 247-0476.