History and Timeline

PAFA was founded in 1805 by painter and scientist Charles Willson Peale, sculptor William Rush, and other artists and business leaders. It is the oldest art museum and school in the nation.

History of the Museum and Collection

The current museum building opened in 1876. Designed by the American architects Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark. As such, it is recognized as an important part of America's and Philadelphia's architectural heritage. It was carefully restored in 1976. The collection is installed in a chronological and thematic format, exploring the history of American art from the 1760s to the present.

Since its founding, the Academy has collected works by leading American artists, as well as works by distinguished alumni and faculty of its school. From 1811 to 1969, the Academy also organized important annual art exhibitions from which significant acquisitions were made. Harrison S. Morris, Managing Director from 1892 to 1905, collected contemporary American art for the institution. Among the many masterpieces acquired during his tenure were works by Cecilia Beaux, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duvenek, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, and Edmund Tarbell. Work by The Eight, which included former Academy students Robert Henri and John Sloan, is well represented in the collection, and provides a transition between 19th- and 20th- century art movements.

Today, the Academy maintains its strong collecting tradition with the inclusion of works by modern and contemporary American artists such as Jennifer Bartlett, Richard Diebenkorn, Nancy Graves, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Robert Motherwell, Raymond Saunders, and Frank Stella. Acquisitions and exhibition programs are balanced between historical and contemporary art, and the museum continues to show works by contemporary regional artists and features annual displays of work by Academy students.

 


1810s
The Academy School Commences

In 1810 the Academy set aside a room for the use of the school, now formally organized into a cast drawing class, and a life academy with access to a model. In addition, several artist-professors were routinely accessible. This level of organization was not sustained for long, but entrance to the galleries for copying and critiques from Academy artists remained available until the school's major reorganization took place several decades later. Another resource for study was provided by the Academy's first major gift, a large collection of paintings, casts, books and engravings donated in 1813 by Joseph Allen Smith of Charleston, South Carolina. (The ship carrying Smith's donation had been seized as a war prize by Britain, and when its cargo was released through a court decree, a worldwide legal precedent was set favoring free trade in works of art in times of war.) The Smith gift was augmented by 24 books of etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, donated through Napoleon Bonaparte in 1811. In this decade, the paintings collection was enriched with two of its greatest masterpieces: Gilbert Stuart's George Washington (Lansdowne Portrait), donated by William Bingham in 1811, and the Academy's first purchase of a major painting, Washington Allston's Dead Man Restored to Life by Touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha, accomplished by mortgaging the building in 1816.


1820s
The Academy Begins to Grow

After just 15 years in existence, the Academy board recognized that more space was needed for students to copy from casts and oil paintings (the primary method of instruction at that time). Thus a library and a statue gallery were added to the building in the early 1820s. Although the library was not open to the public, the new gallery allowed Philadelphians to view additional works of art, both from the growing collection and in the annual exhibitions, which continued to provide the city's only regular display of painting and sculpture.

 

In 1828 a monumental headless statue of the goddess Ceres, unearthed in Greece, was presented to the collection by Captain Patterson of the U.S. Navy. Placed on the lawn in front of the Academy's building, it remained there for 45 years. In 1876 Ceres was installed on the facade of the new Furness-Hewitt designed building, where it rested until 1937. Greece was on the minds of many in this period and even in those precarious financial times, the board responded to international appeals by sending one week's receipts to the relief fund in aid of the Greek populace then suffering under the Turkish occupation.

 

In the middle of the decade the 67-year-old Marquis de Lafayette visited the Academy. Upon receipt of an Honorary Membership, he expressed great satisfaction at the institution's progress.


1830s
The Academy Survives a Crisis

The decade of the 1830s at the Academy was marked by what the directors of the day termed an acute "pecuniary embarrassment." In this period the institution stood on the edge of bankruptcy and closure, with the directors going so far as to discuss selling its assets and disbanding. Funds were raised through a printed circular calling for public contributions and by collecting unpaid yearly dues from the stockholders. In addition, two small stores were constructed along the Chestnut Street frontage to produce income, and by 1836 there was sufficient confidence to warrant mortgaging the building to buy Benjamin West's Death on the Pale Horse. While the purchase seems like a brilliant move today, the artists of the city complained that the painting symbolized the Academy's lack of commitment to living artists. Their bitter and public pronouncements about the European and old-master focus of the exhibitions embodied the division between the two sides. While the local artists sought participation in the institution's management and exhibition planning, the affluent gentlemen board members many descendants of the City's founding elite were more concerned with the diffusion of cultivated taste to the public. Ultimately both sides gained small victories: the Academy focused increasingly on American art and the board remained in the control of laymen city leaders.


1840s & 1850s
The Academy Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

The fiftieth anniversary of the Academy was celebrated in a quiet way at the stockholders meeting of 1856 (fifty years after the Academy charter was ratified by the Commonwealth). Rembrandt Peale, one of six surviving signers of the 1805 document, chaired the meeting. His address stated that 12,000 visitors had been counted in the previous year, sixty-four students were enrolled in the school, the library housed 150 books and no serious financial encumbrance was suffered. At mid-century the Academy was the focal point of Philadelphia's cultural life and a major force on the American art scene, even though a fire had virtually destroyed the original building in 1845. Among the temporary exhibits shown in the newly reconstructed Academy after 1847 were Thomas Cole's famous allegorical series The Course of Empire (1852), Hiram Powers's controversial Greek Slave (1848) and a landmark exhibition of English Pre-Raphaelite art (1858) the institution's first blockbuster. The largest part of the reconstruction funds had come from the Ladies Bazaar and Ball, the first recorded effort of a group of volunteer women on behalf of the Academy. Ten years later, in 1856, Ladies Day in the galleries was abolished, and fig leaves were ordered for the casts.


1860s
The Academy Leaves Chestnut Street

The decade of the 1860s marked the end of the Academy's presence on Chestnut Street. Both of its buildings there, the first designed by John Dorsey in 1805, and its successor by Richard Gilpin of 1846, were white classical temples with small columned porticos. The structures sat well back from the street between Tenth and Eleventh, and after 1839 were partially obscured from view by two commercial fronts the Academy had erected to provide income. By the late 1860s classicism in architecture, once the height of fashion, was fading and the building was badly deteriorated and too small for the Academy's needs. The decision to sell was not difficult, but the selection of the new location caused a rift within the board. One faction insisted that the Broad and Cherry location would turn out to be a disastrous choice, soon to be cut off from the rest of the city by the massive bulk of City Hall. The decade was a quiet period in the galleries with Civil War disruptions causing a reduced schedule of special exhibitions. The school, however, was thriving, and several students who would go on to fame pursued art study in the 1860s, including Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, Edwin Austin Abbey and William Harnett.


1870s
Major Gifts to the Museum Collection

The sale of the Academy's Chestnut Street building in 1870 left the institution without a home while the new building rose at the corner of Broad and Cherry Streets. Museum operations were suspended for five years, and the school operated in rented quarters only from 1870 to 1873. The new building opened in 1876, and in the following four years the school was reorganized, Thomas Eakins was hired, and several landmark gifts enriched the museum collection.

 

The art collection amassed by Joseph Harrison arrived in 1878. Among the seventeen works in the gift were Charles Willson Peale's The Artist in His Museum, John Vanderlyn's Ariadne, two portraits of George Washington and two works by Benjamin West: Christ Rejected and Penn's Treaty with the Indians. Half of the Harrison works would become signature paintings for the Academy, as well as important icons of American art history. In the next year, the Edward L. Carey collection brought twenty-five American works into the collection, including paintings by Daniel Huntington, Henry Inman, William Sidney Mount, Emanuel Leutze and Thomas Sully. Also in 1879, another historic event for the museum collection occurred with the gift of the Henry D. Gilpin estate, which provided the institution with its first endowment of funds for art acquisition.


1880s
The Thomas Eakins Era at the Academy

The decade of the 1880s was notable for the presence of Thomas Eakins at the Academy. Eakins and Fairman Rogers, a board member who was very interested in the teaching methods of the school, researched American and European art education practices. They introduced a number of new ideas and ushered in a half century during which the Academy's program set the pace for American art education. These changes included a sequentially organized program of elementary and advanced courses outlined in a printed catalogue. And for the first time, a small tuition charge was introduced.

 

Eakins's teaching ideas led to a much greater emphasis on the study of human anatomy, including dissections of animals and human cadavers and increased emphasis on the nude model. In turn, he de-emphasized the study of the antique casts, encouraging students to work directly from a figure. Eakins also introduced a sculpture class in modeling the body from life, a practice that heretofore had not existed in American art schools. Eakins was dismissed from the faculty in 1886 for his over-emphasis on the use of the nude. However, many of the Eakins-era curriculum innovations remained part of the school program after his departure.


1890s
The Directorship of Harrison Morris

Harrison S. Morris (1856-1948) served as the Director of the Academy from 1892 to 1905. He was one of this country's first professional arts administrators, and his impact on the institution was profound. Under Morris the Academy sponsored many important exhibitions including four landmark displays of photographic art, and one-man shows by William M. Chase, Robert Henri, Everett Shinn and Edward Redfield. In addition, he led the Academy in some of its most enlightened collecting, acquiring, among many others, Winslow Homer's The Fox Hunt, Maxfield Parrish's Old King Cole, William M. Chase's Lady with a White Shawl, Cecilia Beaux's New England Woman, Henry O. Tanner's Nicodemus and Childe Hassam's Cat Boats, Newport Harbor.

 

Active in numerous art organizations, Morris later worked as a magazine editor. He was a prolific author of fiction, poetry, artist biographies and articles, and in 1930 penned his autobiography, Confessions in Art. While strongly critical of the Academy (having departed in a stormy row with the board), his account revealed much about art-world and Academy dynamics in the early twentieth century.

 

In 1891 Morris encouraged Thomas Eakins to return to the Academy exhibitions after the artist's dismissal five years earlier. In 1896 he advocated acquisition of our first Eakins painting, The Cello Player, and sat for one of Eakins's greatest portraits, a work acquired for the permanent collection in 2000.


1900s
The Academy's 100th Anniversary

In December 1904 the President, Edward Coates, and the Board of Directors raised $3,250 in the Guarantee Fund to cover expenses for the 100th Anniversary Celebration. The Celebration was completed (under budget) for a total cost of $2,145, which included an elaborate dinner held in the most ornate gallery of the Historic Landmark Building (designed by Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt) at $827.30 for 262 guests.

 

Guests, many of whom arrived from New York City via a private chartered railroad car, included 21 descendants of the founders, well known Academy graduates and, according to The New York Times, the "greatest gathering of artists." Speakers included Hampton L. Carson, who celebrated Pennsylvania, the first American Commonwealth to charter an art academy; Rev. Dr. Furness, who discussed the history of the Academy; Charles Biddle, descendant of two founders; and noted artist William Merritt Chase.


1910s
Chester Springs Summer Campus

In 1917 the Academy opened a summer school of open-air painting called the Academy Country School, a campus referred to colloquially as Chester Springs. The site, which occupied over 100 acres in Chester County, about six miles southwest of Phoenixville, operated until 1952. Its location, where three historic natural springs emerge, was a medicinal spa well before the American Revolution and a hospital during and after the Valley Forge encampment. The buildings on the property, forming the village of Yellow Springs, were converted to art school use by the Academy. A former hotel became a dormitory, while the various sheds and barns became studios. There were also two pools, tennis and croquet courts, and acres of open fields and farmland. Tuition was low, sessions lasted six weeks and many students returned year after year. The idea of a country campus stemmed from the early-20th-century vogue for summer landscape painting programs, a legacy of the Impressionist movement. The emphasis was on working outdoors, so landscape and open-air figure studies predominated, with still life and animal painting offered as well. Today the location operates as Historic Yellow Springs and The Chester Springs Studio, organizations with which the Academy has cooperative relationships for summer landscape classes.


1920s
Landmark Exhibitions

In the 1920s the Academy presented three exhibitions that now stand as landmarks in the history of American modernism. The first, Representative Modern Masters, in the spring of 1920, featured European Post-Impressionists like C ézanne and Gauguin, as well as younger artists such as Picasso and Matisse. Attendance topped 25,000 visitors in three weeks. The organizers, Arthur B. Carles and Carroll Tyson, secured a catalogue introduction by conductor Leopold Stokowski, who encouraged acceptance of these modern artists by comparing them to Debussy and Stravinsky.

 

Carles was also an organizer of the 1921 Later Tendencies in Art exhibition featuring Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and others. Almost 100 American modernists, influenced by Post-Impressionism and cubism, were presented in a major museum exhibition for the first time. This show also attracted huge crowds and a great deal of press interest, with conservative critics decrying the “crazy, extremist” art. In 1996 the Academy recreated this exhibition in To Be Modern, borrowing over 50 works shown in 1921 and adding appropriate works from the collection, such as Marin's Sun, Sea, Land—Maine. One of the strongest supporters of Later Tendencies was Merion collector Albert C. Barnes. In 1923 he and Carles arranged for an Academy showing of 75 works Barnes had just acquired. That exhibition closed this groundbreaking series of Academy displays with a flourish. When local critics vilified the show, especially the expressionist works of Chaim Soutine, Barnes was furious and began restricting visitation to his collection to all but his chosen guests.


1930s
The Illustration Program

The decade of the 1930s was the high point in the Academy’s program in illustration, a curriculum that prepared students for careers as book and magazine illustrators. Begun in 1900, in response to the burgeoning need for graphic work in publishing, and by the example of successful illustrators like Maxfield Parrish (who studied the craft outside of his Academy classes), the illustration course was a rare example of the Academy offering commercial training.

 

Demonstrations of printing techniques and talks by editors and successful illustrators, such as Joseph Pennell, augmented the coursework. Illustration majors were eligible to compete for the Cresson Travel Scholarship and several Cressons were awarded annually to these students. Their work was reproduced routinely in school catalogues.

 

During World War II, Academy students, serving in the armed forces, used their training in illustration to record wartime scenes. Joe Stefanelli sketched Japanese prisoners of war for YANK magazine in 1945. The illustration courses were discontinued in 1958, in response to declining popularity and the availability of other training options.


1940s
World War II Affects the Academy

In 1942-43 more than 70 Academy students departed for service in the armed forces. Members of the School staff sent art magazines to the men and other interested servicemen, and the soldiers in turn shipped examples of their artwork to the Academy. Many served as illustrators for army or navy magazines; others just sketched when they could.

 

During the war years, blackout and transport restrictions made large or important exhibitions hard to secure. The Academy relied on displays of small works and local interest topics, as well as five shows featuring the young soldiers’ artwork. Other war-related exhibitions, devoted to posters or cartoons, appeared. A further constraint was the fact that 55 major works from the Academy’s collection were stored in a bank vault for the duration, an act prompted by the widespread fear that enemy bombers would attack Eastern seaboard cities.

 

In late 1945 the stored art was returned from Fidelity Bank and exhibited in a display called the Star Presentation. In 1946 the Academy resumed more ambitious exhibitions with a show of paintings by Daniel Garber.


1950s
The 150th Anniversary

The Academy's 150th Anniversary in 1955 became a national and international celebration. The year began with an exclusive gala opening of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, which exhibited more than 300 works of art by 25 of America's foremost artists who had ties to the Academy, including Alexander Stirling Calder, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase and Thomas Eakins. Called by critics the greatest collection of American art, this show captured the spirit of American art in a single showing.

 

With funding from the U.S. Department of Information, this exhibition represented our nation on an international tour to six European cities, where this blockbuster was lauded by critics who reported that it helped to understand America a little more; that America was not "skyscrapers and factories only" but had "so many openings to the free current of the spirit."

 

The city, state and nation joined the many notable events that made up the 150th Anniversary. The Academy was featured in an eight-page spread in Life magazine. Thirty million commemorative three-cent USPS stamps were sold in the course of the year, with almost one million sold and more than three hundred thousand covers canceled on the first day at a temporary USPS facility set up in the Academy.


1960s
The Annual Exhibitions

In 1969, the longest-running event in American museum history concluded with the close of the last Academy Annual Exhibition. Commencing in 1811, these displays brought (by a conservative estimate) more than one hundred thousand works of art to Philadelphia audiences. Partly juried and partly by invitation, the exhibitions reflected a strong European emphasis in the pre-Civil War years, and a primarily American focus after the current building opened in 1876.

 

By 1890, the annuals were one of the premier venues in America for artists to show their newest productions to the public and for sales to both private and public buyers. Although eclipsed in importance by 1969 with the rise of the private art dealer and younger artists' disdain for large group presentations, the exhibitions provided the Academy and Philadelphia with a prestigious display of current American art. Visitors routinely saw the work of artists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, William M. Chase, Cecilia Beaux or Thomas Eakins, and in the 20th century, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh, Theodore Roszak and Max Weber, several of which were purchased for the permanent collection each year.


1970s
Restoration of the Historic Landmark Building

Although the Academy building was at the height of fashion when it opened in 1876, shifting tastes had condemned its opulence, and by 1950s, many of its more colorful or flamboyant details had been painted or disguised. The mid-1970s saw a comprehensive restoration directed by architect Hyman Meyers.

 

The entrance and vestibule were rebuilt, approximating Furness and Hewitt's original plan. In the stairhall, wooden railings and doorjambs were scraped and re-stained, the whole area was repainted, complete with gold rosettes and silver leaf stars. In the galleries, linoleum floor tiles were removed, and the then stark, white interior was painted with the original darker Victorian color palette. In the rotunda, the iron and bronze columns were liberated from drywall paneling, and doorways were restored. Modern security and climate-control systems were installed throughout.

 

Fully restored to its original grandeur, the building stands today as a monument to Philadelphia's artistic, architectural and cultural importance.


1980s
Uncovering the Myth of Thomas Eakins

In 1938, Susan Eakins died, and the Eakins home was sold. The next year, Charles Bregler, a former student of Thomas Eakins, gathered up a large number of drawings, manuscripts, glass plate negatives and photographs, with the permission of the estate executors who believed all the material to be valueless. Bregler hoarded this collection until 1944, when he sold a part of his holdings, mostly works of art, to Knoedler's in New York (now in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). In 1958, the rest of his collection passed into the hands of his widow, Mary Bregler, who also guarded the collection zealously. After several attempts by Academy staff to examine the material, curator Kathleen A. Foster finally persuaded Mary Bregler to transfer it to the Academy. After a year of negotiations and an appraisal by Sotheby’s, the Academy purchased Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection.

 

This vital acquisition has put the Academy in the center of Eakins studies, and new insights drawn from it have rewritten the story of Eakins’s life. The collection has generated three major Academy publications, two large-scale Eakins exhibitions and numerous scholarly articles, not to mention the well-publicized controversy over Eakins’s radical teaching methods.


1990s
Graduate Degree Inaugurated

In 1992  PAFA inaugurated the Master of Fine Arts degree. Since its inception, the program enrollment has grown from the original class of 13 to an average of 60 students. This intensive, two-year studio art degree involves daily interaction with an outstanding faculty of resident and visiting artists, as well as regular critiques, seminars in critical readings, a written thesis, and presentation of a graduate exhibition. PAFA MFAs have gone on to important teaching and practicing careers at both the national and the international level.  


2000s
Celebrating 200 Years

Celebrating its 200th Anniversary in 2005, PAFA was honored to be the first arts institution to receive the National Medal for the Arts, now proudly displayed in the foyer of the Historic Landmark Building. Earlier in the year the Academy opened the new Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building adjacent to the historic museum building, creating an urban fine arts campus that brought the institution into the next century. The PAFA campus is the centerpiece of the streetscape opposite the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center, presenting the Academy as a top cultural destination to audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

 

Timeline

1700s

1786
Peale's Museum founded in Philadelphia by Charles Willson Peale

1794
The Columbianum, a loosely organized association of artists, founded in Philadelphia by Charles Willson Peale

 

1795
The Columbianum held first exhibition of art in America and failed in the same year

1800s

1805
Summer and fall meetings in private homes resulted in creation of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and election of a board with George Clymer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, elected first President; artists C.W. Peale, Rembrandt Peale, and William Rush among the group of 71 men signing the formal charter on December 26 at Independence Hall

Charles Willson Peale wrote to President Jefferson of his hopes to establish "an Academy for the encouragement of the fine arts"

Benjamin West elected first honorary member; building committee members William Rush, William Poyntell, and John Dorsey selected lot on north side of Chestnut Street between Tenth and Eleventh Streets

1806
Charter ratified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Building, designed by John Dorsey, opened in April; collection of plaster casts of antique sculpture purchased in Paris by the Academy's agent, Nicholas Biddle, became core of first exhibition

1807
Regular schedule of open days established; first catalogue of the collection issued; 25 cent-admission charge; Mondays set aside exclusively for ladies

First exhibition held, including paintings lent by Robert Fulton

First plans for establishment of regular classes

1810
First mention of agreement with Society of Artists for use of Academy rooms as a school

North gallery added to building to expand exhibition space

1811
First Annual Exhibition in this series which ran until 1969

Gilbert Stuart's George Washington (The Landsdowne Portrait) given by William Bingham; 24 books of Piranesi etchings given by Napoleon Bonaparte

1812
Board resolved to establish a Life Academy with a professorship of anatomy; Pennsylvania Academicians, an advisory body of artists formed to assist the Academy

First purchase of a work of art, Portrait of Governor Clinton by Ezra Ames, for $80

1813
Paintings sent from Europe by Joseph Allen Smith and seized as war prize by Britain, released to Academy; world-wide legal precedent set favoring free trade in works of art in times of war

1816
First purchase of a major painting, Washington Allston's The Dead Man Restored to Life by Touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha, accomplished by mortgaging the building

1820-23
Statue gallery and library added to building

1822
Consideration of professorship of historical and landscape painting

1824
Marquis de Lafayette elected honorary member; visited the Academy and expressed "great satisfaction"

1831
First medal for merit at exhibitions given to Joshua Shaw for Sunset

1834
Financial problems endanger Academy's existence

1836
Benjamin West's Death on the Pale Horse purchased; resolved to erect two buildings along Chestnut Street in front of the Academy for revenue

1839
Leased new frontage buildings to Artists Fund Society

1844
Excellent financial report; debts reduced; building renovated; exhibitions successful

1845
Financial balance in hand for year; plans for greater picture buying; Antique cast gallery set on fire causing great damage to building; cast collection destroyed; Ladies Committee raised $10,000 with a Bazaar and Ball

1847
New and larger building, designed by Richard A. Gilpin on surviving foundation, opened with improved schoolrooms and new casts

1848
Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave exhibited to great public notoriety

1851
Exhibition of Thomas Cole's five monumental paintings titled The Course of Empire First Annual Report issued

1855
The 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was decidedly reserved. To celebrate, the original articles of agreement were made available to the public as they were displayed in the galleries for the year. The Annual Stockholders Meeting featured special remarks.

1856
Fiftieth anniversary celebrated with six founders present; school organization improved under John Sartain's direction; Ladies Day in galleries abolished and fig leaves ordered for the casts

1857
Academy supported Dr. W. H. Furness, father of architect Frank Furness, in request for admission of "all decent and respectable colored persons and upon same terms with decent and respectable white persons;" Academy invites visits by schoolchildren and other groups; Twelve thousand visitors to the galleries

1858
American Exhibition of British Art at the Academy introduced work by the Pre-Raphaelites to America

1860
Exhibition of Frederick Edwin Church's Heart of the Andes

1862
Total of 62 students registered

1866
Building in need of repair; new location considered

1867-72
Yearly subscription of $1000 raised for assistance of retired faculty member, Thomas Sully

1868
Christian Schussele engaged as Professor of Art at $1000 per year

1869
Separate life class for ladies established

1870
Chestnut Street building sold; property bought at Broad and Cherry Streets; school classes moved to Soldiers' Home at 16th Street below Filbert and later to Schussele's home; exhibitions suspended

1871
Frank Furness and George Hewitt appointed architects for new building

1872
Cornerstone laid for the new building

1876
Furness-Hewitt building opened just prior to the United States Centennial celebration

Thomas Eakins began teaching life class

Receipt of John S. Phillips bequest of European prints and drawings

1878
First endowment of funds for art acquisition from the Henry D. Gilpin estate

Donation of Joseph and Sarah Harrison collection of paintings, including C.W. Peale's The Artist in His Museum, West's Christ Rejected and Penn's Treaty with the Indians

First school catalogue issued

1879
Mary Smith Prize, for a Philadelphia woman painter in the Annual Exhibition, established

Edward L. Carey collection of American art received

1880
Joseph E. Temple Fund for the purchase of art, and award of a gold medal in the Annual Exhibitions, established

Germania Orchestra concerts commenced, attended by large audiences for two decades

1881
American Artists at Home and in Europe, a major exhibition of paintings by American expatriates, brought J.M. Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Artist's Mother to the Academy

Portrait class established; Thomas Anshutz joined faculty

Charles Toppan Prize, the first School prize, established

1882
First record of student tuition charge; Thomas Eakins became Director of School

1884
Exhibition of Whistler etchings in gallery decorated to the artist's specifications

1886
Eakins resigned after disagreement with Board over use of nude models

Fire in galleries destroyed 50 paintings

Endowment for general operations established

1887
Academy entertained President Cleveland, Ex-President Hayes, the Secretaries of State and Treasury, the Chief Justice and five Justices of the Supreme Court, fifteen Governors, and numerous dignitaries at ceremonies commemorating the signing of the Constitution

1891
Receipt of largest bequest to date — the Henry C. Gibson collection of European paintings and American sculpture

1892
First major display of American Impressionist works at the 62nd Annual Exhibition

Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Maxfield Parrish attended the Academy

Harrison S. Morris appointed Managing Director, serving until 1905

1893
Charles Grafly joined faculty

Group of American paintings, scheduled for display at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, appeared at the Academy

Academy Gold Medal for achievement in art first awarded to Daniel Ridgway Knight

1894
Winslow Homer's Fox Hunt purchased

Exhibition of architectural drawings was the first of this series, which continued through 1913

1896
Cecilia Beaux and William Merritt Chase began teaching at the Academy

1897
The Fellowship, the Academy's alumni organization, founded

Thomas Eakins's The Cello Player purchased

Academy students, including John Sloan and Edward Glackens, painted mural cycle for auditorium walls

1898
Architect Frank Miles Day engaged to plan for expansion of building and conversion of studios to galleries

1898-1901
Important early photographic exhibitions, the Philadelphia Photographic Salons, were held

1900s

1900
Illustration course established; discontinued in 1958

1902
Cresson Travel Scholarship first awarded

1903
Architectural Design course established; discontinued in 1908

1904
First Annual Exhibition of Watercolors, Prints and Drawings held in collaboration with the Philadelphia Watercolor Club

1905
Aside from a major exhibition of American artists, the most talked about event of the 100th Anniversary celebration was an elaborate banquet. A special railroad car was chartered to bring guests to the celebration from New York City. Attendees included twenty-one descendents of the founders, well known graduates, and, according to The New York Times, the greatest gathering of artists ever seen in America.

1908
Exhibition of The Eight introduced Philadelphia to these painters of contemporary urban subjects

1917-18
Opening of the Academy's summer campus at Chester Springs, Pennsylvania

Thomas Eakins Memorial Exhibition

1920
Paintings and Drawings by Representative Modern Masters showed works of European avant-garde artists, organized by Arthur B. Carles and Carroll Tyson

1921
Paintings and Drawings Showing the Later Tendencies in Art became first museum exhibition of work by American modernists, organized by Alfred Steiglitz, Arthur B. Carles, Joseph Stella, and Thomas Hart Benton

1922
Exhibition of Portraits by Thomas Sully

1923
Contemporary European Paintings and Sculpture displayed recent additions to the collection of Albert C. Barnes

Portraits by Charles Willson Peale, James Peale, and Rembrandt Peale exhibited during run of the Barnes collection

1928-33
Chester Springs program held winter school sessions

1929
Cooperative program with University of Pennsylvania established

1938
Joseph Pennell's Lithographs of the Panama Canal exhibited

Ware Travel Scholarship established

1940
Paintings by Arthur B. Carles exhibited

1945
Star Presentation exhibited Academy masterpieces after return from wartime storage

1948
Schiedt Travel Scholarship established

1950
Contemporary British Painting exhibition

1952
Chester Springs campus closed

1955
The Pennsylvania Academy's 150th Anniversary in 1955 became a national and international celebration. The year began with The One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition which exhibited more than 300 works of art by 25 of America's foremost artists who had ties to the Academy. With funding from the United States Department of Information, this exhibition represented our nation on an international tour to six European cities where it was lauded by critics at every venue.

1964
Academy School gained a second facility in the Peale House, the former Belgravia Hotel, on Chestnut Street; Graphics (Printmaking) major established

1965
Peale Club (dining club) opened next to Peale House

1966
Andrew Wyeth exhibition attended by 173,000 visitors

1969
164th Annual Exhibition closed this series, which began in 1811

Museum Shop established

Vault renovation commenced

Jacob Eichholtz exhibition, with catalogue by Edgar P. Richardson, marked new era of scholarly exhibitions and publications; ten paintings by Eichholtz presented to the Academy by Mrs. James H. Beal

1970
President and Mrs. Nixon attended opening of exhibition To Save a Heritage; Mrs. Nixon unveiled restored paintings; souvenir portfolio of historical documents presented to guests

1971
Conservation laboratory opened; funds provided by Mrs. T. Carrick Jordan, Bertram O'Neil, and Henry S. McNeil

Cooperative program with Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts) founded

Furness-Hewitt building placed on National Register of Historic Places

1972
Frank H. Goodyear, Jr. became Academy's first professional curator

Conference of distinguished consultants considered the future of the Academy

Docent program begun

1974
Furness-Hewitt building closed for two-year restoration

1975
Building awarded National Landmark status

1976
Restored building reopened for celebration of U.S. Bicentennial

1978
Morris Gallery program inaugurated to exhibit contemporary regional art

1980
The One-Hundred-Seventy-Fifth Anniversary was celebrated with block party on Broad Street. In early June, Broad Street was closed from 12-5PM and the celebration began with the reading of a City proclamation. The 15,000 people who had assembled at City Hall then paraded down Broad Street to the Academy. The event featured showings of the film, "Forever Furness," a fashion show of dresses from 1870-1910, free tours of the collection, as well as music, clowns, and jugglers.

1981
Exhibition of Contemporary American Realism Since 1960 traveled to three European venues

1982
Antiques Magazine devoted March issue to the Academy

School moved into Peale House II, the former Oliver Bair building, on Chestnut Street

1984
Philip Pearlstein marked the 500th special exhibition held since 1807

1985
Red Grooms exhibition brought 90,000 visitors to the Academy and traveled to three American venues

Charles Bregler's Thomas Eakins collection purchased

Endowment for acquisitions, established by the heirs of Board President Henry S. McNeil, provided funds for purchase of Academy's first painting by John Singleton Copley

1988
School moved into new building at 1301 Cherry Street

1989
Checklist of American Paintings, and Writing About Eakins: the Manuscripts in Charles Bregler's Thomas Eakins Collection published

1990
Three-volume Index to the Annual Exhibitions published

Thomas Eakins Rediscovered exhibition displayed artwork, photographs and manuscripts from Charles Bregler's collection

Museum Director's position endowed by Edna S. Tuttleman

1992
Master of Fine Arts program inaugurated

1994
I Tell My Heart: the Art of Horace Pippin exhibition traveled to four American venues

Building closed for six months of renovations

Eakins and the Photograph published and exhibition of Eakins photographs mounted

1995
Forty works by Robert Motherwell acquired

To Be Modern: American Encounters with Cezanne and Company exhibited art of American modernists; museum attendance increased significantly

Website established

1997
The Fellowship, the Academy's first alumni association, celebrated its 100th anniversary

Catalogue of American Sculpture published

1999
Maxfield Parrish exhibition brought 83,000 visitors to the galleries

2000s

2000
Federal building purchased allowing Academy to move the School into near proximity to the Museum

2002
American Sublime exhibition, organized by Tate Britain in London, brings nearly 50,000 visitors to this only East Coast appearance

2005
The Academy celebrates its two-hundredth anniversary with a variety of events, including the grand opening of its new Hamilton Building

PAFA receives the National Medal for the Arts, becoming the only art institution to have won the award

National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States of America

2006
School of Fine Arts relocates to Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building

2007
PAFA jointly purchases Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece The Gross Clinic with the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Daniel Garber: Romantic Realist is the first major retrospective of Daniel Garber's work since 1945 at the Academy

2008
PAFA inaugurates the BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) degree