Public Art In Philadelphia

Penny Balkin Bach
Book Cover

HC: $29.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-822-6
Publication: Dec 92

288 pages
8 x 10
450 halftones

A fascinating history of public art in Philadelphia narrated throughout with surprising anecdotes, biographical sketches, and more than 400 illustrations


"Public art is a manifestation of how we see the world—the artist's reflection of our social, cultural, and physical environment." Thus, Penny Bach introduces this fascinating history of public art in Philadelphia, narrated throughout with surprising anecdotes, biographical sketches, and more than 450 illustrations. She explores the artistic, historical, political, and social trends and events that caused the city to acquire such a rich and diverse collection of public art. Philadelphia's tradition of public art reveals the origins of our cyclic longing for public expression: the spiritual roots of Native American culture, the utilitarian needs of the colonial period, the civic glorification of American patriotism, the planning instincts that emerged from the industrial era, and the pursuit of originality and invention in the twentieth century. Guiding the reader through a chronological tour of the city's aesthetic holdings, Public Art in Philadelphia provides a sort of history of American monumental art in microcosm and offers a way to appreciate the public art we encounter, whether it is cast, carved, built, assembled, or painted.

As the nation's first capital, Philadelphia began early to commemorate heroics figures, popular leaders, patriotic ideals, and historic events. From Lazzarini's marble figure of Benjamin Franklin to Pinto's Fingerspan in Fairmount Park, form Laurel Hill Cemetery's celebrated sculpture garden to Lipchitz's controversial Government of the People, and from William Penn atop City Hall to the colorful murals by the Anti-Graffiti Network, public art has continued to enhance, define, and challenge Philadelphians' perception of their city.

With perhaps the largest collection of public sculpture in the world, Philadelphia's art acquisitions span the history of the United States. Bach examines the gradual transformation over three centuries of style, theme, and reception of statues, murals, and other art forms. Shorter thematic essays make "connections" between works, ideas, artists, and civic missions. A catalogue focuses on more than 200 individual works, noting the materials, dimensions, location history, and commissioning process, and suggesting the vast range of public art. The armchair tourist, for example, can visit Dickens and Little Nell in Clark Park, the John Wanamaker's Eagle, the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Fairmount Park, or the Julius Erving Memorial on Ridge Avenue, among many others. A set of maps encourage readers to view the works in their public context.

Public Art in Philadelphia offers a unique tour of both the familiar and the overlooked treasures that give meaning to the public environment, that reconnect art to daily life, and that remind Philadelphia's visitors and residents of what was considered important to previous generations.


"...a well-illustrated, information-packed exploration of the city's unexcelled collection of accessible artworks, and of the hopes, ideals and causes that have brought them into being...(a) good guide to both familiar pieces and some you may have never heard about."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Table of Contents


1. Patriotism and Pride: To 1835 Native American Traces: Origins of a Public Art • Practical Arts for the New World: The Craft Tradition • After the Revolution: An American Portrait • Meet You at the Eagle • Utility and Beauty: Civic Improvements and the Artist • A Public Figure: Franklin

2. Sculpture and the Landscape: 1836-1876 Laurel Hill Cemetery: Philadelphia's First Sculpture Garden • The Growth of Fairmount Park: The Fairmount Park Commission and the Fairmount Park Art Association • Monuments and Memorials • The Civil War Years: From Parlors to the Public • The Centennial: 1876 and the International Influence

3. Monuments to American Ideals: 1877-1910 Casting an American Art: From Marble to Bronze • Renewed Patriotism: Ceremony and Celebration • Arts and Crafts: Another American Ideal • Three Generations of Calders • A City Beautiful: The Parkway Plan

4. Realism to Abstraction: 1911-1958 Statues to Sculpture: When Old and New Collide • Material Pleasures • The Sculpture Internationals: But Is It Art? • Social Consciousness: A National Commentary • Art and Architecture: Seeking Association • A Legacy of Murals • A City Planned: A Strategy for Civic Design

5. The Third Dimension: 1959-1975 Percent for Art: To Humanize the Urban Environment • The Modern Figure • Patrons and Participants: Urban Design Issues • Innovations: New Materials and New Concepts • An Urban Laboratory

6. A Sense of Place: Since 1976 Art and the Built Environment: Toward a Reconnection • In the Public Context: Public Art and Public Life • Public Art versus Public Taste • Why Public Art? Recent Developments and Future Directions • Preserve and Protect

Catalog Section 1: To 1835 Section 2: 1836-1876 Section 3: 1877-1910 Section 4: 1911-1958 Section 5: 1959-1975 Section 6: Since 1976 Maps Bibliography Credits Acknowledgments Index

About the Author(s)

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Art Association, the nation's first non-profit organization dedicated to the integration of art and urban planning. She is also the author of Form and Function: Proposals for Public Art for Philadelphia.