Historical Note


Frances Lichten was a Research Associate in the Decorative Arts department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1955 until her death in 1961. She brought to the Museum her expertise in Pennsylvania German folk art. She was involved in the development and opening of the Museum's Titus C. Geesey Collection.

Born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in 1889, Frances Lichten developed an early interest in art. At fourteen, she enrolled in the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. She studied design and interior decoration, while also developing an interest in landscape painting. She took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and began to travel around the countryside to practice her technique. She worked as a commercial artist after her graduation, and continued in this capacity for nearly ten years.

From 1936 until 1941, she utilized her design skills as the State Supervisor for the "Index of American Design," which sent artists into the field to document the richness and variety of American arts and crafts. Frances Lichten thrived in this position, compiling hundreds of sketches and drawings depicting folk art unique to the Pennsylvania German population. She later authored a number of books on Pennsylvania folk art, including "The Folk Arts of Rural Pennsylvania," which won her the National Art Club award in 1946. She also published "Pennsylvania German Chests" and "Folk Art Motifs of Pennsylvania," which drew from the sketches and illustrations she created while working with the Works Progress Administration. She published "Decorative Art of Victoria's Era" in 1950. She was also the author of many articles about decorative art, which appeared in local and national publications.

In addition to her position at the Museum, Frances Lichten spent the last years of her life working as the archivist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was also a consultant on Pennsylvania folk art for Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and Historic Bethlehem, Inc.