Traveling Lecture Series

From Our Homes to Yours

While we can't come together in our auditorium currently, PAFA staff are still bringing the stories of American art and artists alive through talks that can be delivered to groups virtually. If you have an audience, we have a lively speaker and interesting topic. For information about scheduling and booking fees, contact Abby King, Assistant Director of Adult Programming at


Single Lecture - $500, $300 for non-profit or PAFA corporate partner

Series - $2000, $1200 for non-profit or PAFA corporate partner

Single Talks: 

A Room of Her Own: Women in American Art Look back to boundary-busting, nineteenth-century female artists to help trace the forces of political and cultural change in American history that have both inspired and challenged professional female artists. From the colonial era accomplishments of the Peale daughters to the breadwinning surprises and subversive humor of Lily Martin Spencer to the trailblazing murals and left of center lifestyle of Violet Oakley, this talk covers 100 years of women who found ways to become accomplished professionals in their own moments of history. 

Philadelphia Firsts: A History of Philadelphia through Art The historic collection  in PAFA's galleries captures the story of Philadelphia as a city on the cutting edge of the 19th century, leading the country toward new discoveries in technology, science, creativity and civic engagement. Take a whirlwind tour of artworks that illustrate Philadelphia's greatest accomplishments as a city of firsts, including the founding of the first museum, public water system, steamboat, medical school and even the first celebrity scandal to splash out across national newspapers.

Frank Furness and George Hewitt: Architects of a Historic Moment: On April 22, 1876, while America celebrated its centennial, PAFA opened a new building that rose 70 feet above the sidewalk,  a towering fortress filled with  radical design elements that awed citizens even then. By exploring the process of commissioning the building and sourcing its materials, as well as the intertwining design motifs of the American landscape and the American industrial revolution that wind through its galleries, the rich story of our 100 years of American progress is visually articulated in a single building.

Modern Spirit: Henry Ossawa Tanner: Henry Tanner grew up in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War and went on to become a pioneering African American artist on the world stage. Tanner's story, particularly the intertwining influences of race, religion and modernist experimentation, involves journeying from Philadelphia to rural France, through European Red Cross stations in WWI to the rooftops of the Holy Lands, in order to explore how one artist navigated the technological, political and cultural changes of the 20th century on a global scale. 

World War I and American Art: World War I's impact on art and culture was enormous, as nearly all of the era's major American artists interpreted their experiences, opinions and perceptions of the conflict through their work. This lecture will explore the role of artists who chronicled their experiences of the unfolding war as it crept closer to home and then involved them directly as soldiers, relief workers, political dissenters, and official war artists.

Available Series

Painting the American Landscape: Reflecting early American ideas of discovery, exploration and settlement, 19th century landscape painters captured pastoral scenes, wildernesses and an expanding national consciousness about the natural environment. The work of these artists also contains an inherent ambivalence, as their romanticizing of the mostly unexplored territories of the newly formed United States contributed to a westward expansion that would also bring about its industrial and commercial development, ultimately requiring a national park movement to preserve the beauty they sought to capture on canvas. This series of talks will explore those artists, their visions and their concerns. 5 Part Series includes talks on Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Edwin Church and Thomas Moran.

Tales and Truths: In the earliest years of the Republic, many artists contributed to the creation of a national identity for what it meant to be the world’s first democracy. Their work reflects our earliest ideas about government policy, immigration, capitalism, technology and a country’s relationship to its natural resources, and even today, we find ourselves wrestling with both the dreams and the prejudices that they helped promote. This series will explore the legacies of some of the earliest American artists - both the good and the bad - and complicate the story of how we created the concept of an “American Dream.” 5 Part Series includes talks on Benjamin West, Charles Willson Peale, John Lewis Krimmel, Thomas Birch, and Samuel F. B. Morse.

The Magic of What’s Real: In the middle of the 20th century, the great American tradition of realism collided with European modernism, especially surrealism, and deeply affected a group of American artists working at the boundaries of visual imagination. Artists juxtaposed precisely rendered details and scenes of everyday life with a sort of dream state, an unconscious fantasy world that allowed their canvasses to poke and prod at utopian (and often dystopian) ideals in a 20th century that was hurtling an unprecedented amount of cultural and political change at them. The fanciful tinkerings of these artists to alter the appearance of everyday events earned them the shared label of “magical realists.” In reality, however, their shared magic was in finding the improbable, sometimes even the fantastic, in everyday events. 5 Part Series includes talks on Dorothea Tanning, Paul Cadmus, Peter Blume, George Tooker and Honore Sharrer. 

Contact Us

PAFA offers programs for artists and art lovers of all ages and skill levels who want to learn about and make art.