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This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and school in the United States. Located at Broad and Cherry Streets in Philadelphia, the Academy has fostered a long line of celebrated teachers and students during its illustrious history, perhaps educating more major artists than any other American school of fine arts.
Historically, the artists of the Pennsylvania Academy have preferred to work in traditional, representational styles; there are, of course, notable exceptions to this rule, as can be seen in the works on view in this installation. Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, and John Sloan—who studied at the Academy during the last two decades of the nineteenth century—became part of "The Eight," a progressive group of realist painters known for their gritty depictions of urban street life. Although the Academy's commitment to pioneering styles could be described as cautious at times, famed instructors such as Arthur B. Carles, Hugh Breckenridge, and Henry McCarter paved the way for the avant-garde by introducing their students to innovative modernist techniques, especially those utilizing color and abstraction. Among the best-known exponents of American Modernism are the one-time Academy students Morton Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, whose precisionist style sought to capture the spirit of modern technology. The Academy Goes Modern celebrates the achievements of these pioneers, whose legacy can still be felt in the work of current Academy faculty and students, who remain dedicated to the possibilities of painting.