Westmoreland Museum of American Art

Greensburg, PA





The Philadelphia Ten: A Women's Artist Group 1917-1945


Members of the Philadelphia Ten at their Art Club of Philadelphia exhibition, January 28 - February 11, 1928.

Original photograph in the collection of Emille Branson Manzler, Photograph by Jeannie Nutting


The Philadelphia Ten: A Women's Artist Group 1917-1945, opens at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art (WMAA) on May 10 and continues through July 26, 1998. A unique and progressive group of women painters and sculptors calling themselves The Philadelphia Ten broke the rules of society and the art world by working and exhibiting together. Their work included both urban and rural landscapes, portraiture, still life, and a variety of representational and myth-inspired sculpture. The exhibition offers the public the opportunity to examine the work of these artists for the first time together in over fifty years, and to consider the role that this group, and women's art groups in general, played in American culture during the first half of this century.


Edith Lucile Howard, Untitled, c. 1928, oil on canvas


Assembled from public and private collections, the exhibition includes 81 paintings and 9 sculptures by the thirty women associated with The Ten, highlighting four women in particular: Isabel Branson Cartwright (1885-1966), Constance Cochrane (1888-1962), Mary Russell Ferrell Colton (1889-1971) and Edith Lucile Howard (1885-1951), who were considered the mainstay of the group. Three of the four, Cartwright, Cochrane, and Howard, participated in all sixty-five exhibitions held over the twenty-eight year span. In addition to this core group, other regular members of The Ten will be featured including: Theresa Bernstein (b. 1886), Cora Smalley Brooks (d. 1930), Fern Isabel Coppedge (1888-1951), Nancy Maybin Ferguson (1872-1967), Sue May Wescott Gill (1887-1989), Helen Kiner McCarthy (1884-1927), Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974), Mary Elizabeth Price (1875-1960), Susan Gertrude Schell (1891-1970), and sculptors Harriet Whitney Frishmuth and Beatrice Fenton.


Isabel Branson Cartwright, Emile Drummond Branson, c. 1930, oil on canvas, Collection of Emile Branson Manzler


Cora Smalley Brooks, Nasturtiums, c. 1920, oil on canvas, Collection of Michael Chutko

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Joy of the Waters, 1917 modeled, 1920 cast bronze, 64 x 13 x 11 inches

The exhibition was organized by Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia in celebration of the founding of the College and will travel to the following three venues in addition to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art: Old Jail Museum, Albany, TX, 1/23 - 3/20/99; the Concord Art Association, Concord, MA, 4/16 - 6/11/99; and James A. Michener Museum of Art, Doylestown, PA, 7/17 - 10/3/99. Major funding was provided by grants from CoreStates Bank, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and generous individual contributors. The exhibition was co-curated by Page Talbott, consulting curator and director of the 150th Anniversary Programs at Moore College of Art and Design, and Patricia Tanis Sydney, independent curator and formerly curator at the James A. Michener Museum. The Westmoreland Museum of American Art exhibition of The Philadelphia Ten is supported by grants from the Millstein Charitable Foundation and the Juliet L. Hillman Simonds Foundation.


Constance Cochrane, Might and Majesty, c. 1926, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 30 inches


Also on view during the same time period at the WMAA is Karen Kaighin Photographs. The exhibition features a variety of techniques and experimental processes utilized by the artist over a six year period including pinhole photographs of animals humorously inserted into her neighborhood in Pittsburgh, a photographic series based on the book The World We Live In made with a simple plastic camera, and a series utilizing the Van Dyke process to illustrate a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.


Isabel Branson Cartwright, Portrait, Mary Russell Colton, c. 1927, oil on canvas




The Philadelphia Ten exhibited together between 1917 and 1945, at first annually in Philadelphia and later, with traveling exhibitions at major museums and galleries on the east coast and in the Midwest. All members had studied art in the schools of Philadelphia and all but three of the original ten were graduates of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Relatively unknown today, this group of a total of 23 painters and 7 sculptors was critically acclaimed, aggressively shown, and widely patronized during the twenty-eight years they formally exhibited together.

This exhibition, the group's first retrospective since 1945, will re-introduce the work of these thirty women artists who found a way to transcend the political and cultural climate at a time when opportunities for women to show their art was limited. Local and regionally based art clubs proliferated during the opening decades of the twentieth century, and women's art organizations, such as the Plastic Club in Philadelphia and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in New York, sponsored exhibitions beginning in the late nineteenth century. During that time, The Philadelphia Ten bears the distinction of being the all-women's regional American artist group that exhibited longest and most widely.


Theresa Bernstein, In the Elevated, c. 1916, oil on canvas, 27 x 37 inches


Beginning with the establishment in 1867 of the Ladies' Art Association of New York, numerous organizations were launched to promote the work of professional women artists. Until that time, women's art groups and exhibitions were criticized by some segments of the larger arts community as being old-fashioned, fostering dilettantism and insularity. Others, however, recognized the need to redress the limited exhibition opportunities open to women. Thus, women's art groups were established to provide a network of peer-support, exhibition space, and access to models and professional instruction. Within the American socio-political context of burgeoning women's rights at the turn of the century, these organizations--feminist before "feminism"--became the counterparts of exclusively male art groups.

While all-women's exhibitions, including those of The Ten, were often described as conservative, they were, nonetheless, an important vehicle for presenting high quality artwork by women to the general public. This was the first significant step toward integrating women into the art world. The time period in which these women made art was a significant one. From World War I through World War II, women's roles in the workforce changed dramatically. While gender remains an issue in the art world and society today, museums and galleries are acknowledging their role in creating an unbiased environment in which to explore these avenues. This exhibition also offers the opportunity to understand the significance of a Philadelphia art education in relation to the success of women artists during the first half of the twentieth century.

Rev. 10/6/00

Read more about the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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