As founder of an extended family of printmakers and artists, the legacy of John Sartain is reflected in the collections of many Philadelphia institutions, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Moore College of Art and Design. John Sartain served on the board of Moore College, which was subsequently headed by his daughter and granddaughter (the school was the first, and is now the only, visual-arts college for women in the United States). In conjunction with its sesquicentennial celebration, Moore College will present the symposium "The Sartain Family and the Philadelphia Cultural Landscape, 1830-1930" on April 11 and 12, 1997, and the exhibition "A Living Legacy: The Sartains at Moore" from April 1 through 17, 1997. As a complement to these events, John Sartain, 1808-1897: Philadelphia Printmaker, will be on view in the American Wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Gallery 108) from January 18 through April 20, 1997. Displayed will be nine prints and drawings by John Sartain, including County Election (After George Caleb Bingham), and Membership Certificate of the Franklin Institute, both of which were created in the 1850s, at the height of his career.
Born and trained in London, John Sartain established himself as a printmaker in Philadelphia in 1830. He was renowned for his mastery of the mezzotint engraving process, a technique long favored in England but relatively unknown in the United States, which was regarded (even after the advent of photography) as the most effective means of reproducing a painting. Working closely with the leading artists of the day, whose paintings were popularized through his prints, Sartain himself achieved prominence in Philadelphia's artistic circles. He served as art director for the Centennial Exposition of 1876, the first international exposition to be held in the United States, held in Philadelphia to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the nation's independence.