Category Archives: Philadelphia Fashion


Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumBobbi Arnst (click photos for large images)

James A. Michener Art Museum Will Present Groundbreaking Exhibition

Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography,
and Sculptural Form 

Multimedia retrospective to display never-before-seen photographs from a modernist icon created during his five-year tenure at Condé Nast

DOYLESTOWN, PA – In March 2017, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form, a groundbreaking exhibition that features never-before-seen photographs by Charles Sheeler, one of America’s most celebrated modernists. Inspired by Sheeler’s portrait and fashion work for Condé Nast from 1926 to 1931, the multimedia show will feature a significant display of these newly discovered photographs as well as paintings and other photographs created by Sheeler, 1920s fashion ensembles, and Sheeler-designed textiles. Evoking the exuberance, glamour, and promise of the Jazz Age, the exhibition will be on view from March 18 through July 9, 2017.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumAldous Huxley

A Philadelphia native, former Doylestown resident, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts alumnus, Charles Sheeler is one of the founding figures of American modernism. In 1910, Sheeler and fellow artist Morton Schamberg searched for a place to retreat from Philadelphia to sketch. They found a creative and inspirational escape in Doylestown, making their home at the historic Worthington House on Mercer Avenue. It was here, a mile and a half from where the Michener Art Museum now stands, that Sheeler began to explore photography in earnest.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumIna Clare as Betsy Ross

Sheeler’s fashion and portrait photography for Condé Nast, however, has been almost universally dismissed as purely commercial, a painter’s “day job,” and nothing more. In reality, this commercial work was instrumental in shaping his aesthetic vision. Trained in an impressionist approach to landscape painting, Sheeler experimented early in his career with compositions inspired by European modernism before developing a linear, hard-edged style now known as Precisionism. While working in this mode, he produced powerful and compelling images of the Machine Age: skyscrapers, factories, and power plants, images that established his reputation as a leading figure in American art. Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form will show that his dramatic viewpoints, rhythmic patterning, and abstract compositions were influenced by his work at Condé Nast.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumMadame Lasse

“This exhibition will show how Sheeler’s modernist vision was refined over the course of his time at Condé Nast,” said Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., the Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the Michener Art Museum and curator of the exhibition. “It was while there he fine-tuned his particular style-objective, distant, and rigorously formal-that he then applied to all of his subsequent work.

The core of the exhibition is 85 portraits and fashion photographs from this period, on loan from the Condé Nast archives. Models adorned in jewels and couture gowns, literary giants of the era, and Broadway actors and Ziegfeld Follies dancers: the subject matter is as sensational as the Jazz Age itself. The exhibition also features select prints from Sheeler’s famous Doylestown House series as well as his photographs of modern sculpture and early portraiture, the film Manhatta (a collaboration with Paul Strand), period costumes on loan from the collections of the Museum of the City of New York and Drexel University’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, and paintings and photographs on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, Princeton University Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other major institutions.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumHelen Menken

“The James A. Michener Art Museum is an especially relevant venue for Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form considering Sheeler’s strong ties to the region,” said Lisa Tremper Hanover, director and CEO of the Michener Art Museum. “We’re thrilled to present this unknown body of work in Doylestown, where Sheeler made his first important photographs.”

Complementing the exhibit will be programming that includes lectures, curator talks, a Scholars Day, a film series, musical performances, and a New York-based symposium. For the full schedule, visit the exhibition website at

Advance tickets and group tours for Charles Sheeler: Photography, Fashion, and Sculptural Form are available at or by calling 215.340.9800.

A member reception will be held on the evening of March 17, 2017, the day before the exhibition opens for public view. To become a Michener Art Museum member and receive an invitation, visit or call 215.340.9800 x110.

Major support for Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with further support from The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Visit Bucks County, an anonymous donor, and the Bucks County Foundation.

Additional funding has been provided by Bonnie J. O’Boyle and Virginia W. Sigety, Independent cabi Stylist.

In-kind support is generously provided by Condé Nast Editions.

About the James A. Michener Art Museum

The James A. Michener Art Museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits American art, and promotes the work of nationally and internationally known Delaware Valley artists of all eras and creative disciplines. The museum presents exhibitions that explore a variety of artistic expressions and offers diverse educational programs that develop a lifelong involvement in the arts. Throughout the year, the Michener Art Museum hosts a wide range of programs open to the public, including lectures, artists conversations, gallery talks, artist studio tours, dance performances, jazz performances, family-themed activities, and other events. The museum also offers diverse selection of art classes for children and adults, which include instruction in drawing, painting, sculpting, and printmaking as well as programs for the public, schools, and teachers designed to support arts education. The James A. Michener Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA. The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; and Sunday, noon – 5:00 pm. For more information, visit or call 215.340.9800.

Twitter: @MichenerArt

Facebook: MichenerArtMuseum

Instagram: michenerart

Thank you to Christine Triantos, James A. Michener Art Museum, Associate Director, Marketing and Communications for the content of this post.

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Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global StagePrinted Textile, 2005. Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, founded 1846. Cotton plain weave, wax‑resist print, 12 feet × 47 1/2 inches (365.8 × 120.7 cm). Private Collection, ©Vlisco

Creative Africa, Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Through January 22, 2017

Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building

The Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrates West and Central African fashion and culture in an exhibition exploring the classic and contemporary looks of Vlisco, the oldest international textile brand that specializes in Dutch wax fabrics. From the earliest designs and most recognizable patterns, continuing through a selection of iconic styles that have been re-interpreted in a contemporary way, the exhibition will highlight a selection of the thousands of patterns Vlisco has produced for the African and diaspora markets.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global StagePrinted Textile, 2005. Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, founded 1846. Cotton plain weave, wax‑resist print, 12 feet × 47 1/2 inches (365.8 × 120.7 cm). Private Collection, ©Vlisco

Dilys Blum, The Museum’s Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles and organizer of this exhibition, said: “The wax-printed fabrics long associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history that is truly global.  Many of the patterns shown in this display tell stories and convey images that reflect Africa’s past and reimagine its future. For this special presentation in Philadelphia, we are celebrating the transnational character of Vlisco by showing the company’s classic designs, these classics re-imagined, and new contemporary patterns, sharing how fashion designers in West Africa and other parts of the world use Vlisco wax fabrics today.”

When cloth leaves the factory it is generally identified only by a stock number. The women who trade in the open-air markets in African cities, and their customers, assign the patterns names inspired by current events, politics, religion, and material culture. The exhibition explores the ways in which such patterns acquire social meaning, status, and value and become culturally assimilated into African society, and examine how designs can have many interpretations depending on where they are used.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global StagePrinted Textile, Late 20th century. Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, founded 1846. Cotton plain weave, wax‑resist print, 36 × 47 1/2 inches (91.4 × 120.7 cm). Private Collection, © Vlisco

Among the classic patterns represented are the “Happy Family” egg motif, featuring an image of a hen surrounded by her chicks and chicks-to-be referencing the importance of family, and the “Fallen Tree” pattern that acts as a visual substitute for a proverb that teaches unity and strength in Ghana. The “Alphabet” design symbolizes the value that Africans place on education, and “Swallows”, a symbol of good luck, refers to the transience of riches. The classic “Swallows” pattern was worn by flight attendants for Air Afrique in the 1970s. The display will show how this particular pattern has been reinterpreted to include airplane imagery, a symbol of globalization.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage“La Famille” Printed Textile, 1952. Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, founded 1846. Cotton plain weave, wax‑resist print, 18 feet × 47 1/4 inches (548.6 × 120 cm). Private Collection, © Vlisco

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage“Angelina” Printed Textile, 1962. Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, founded 1846. Cotton plain weave, wax‑resist print, 70 × 48 1/4 inches (177.8 × 122.6 cm). Private Collection, © Vlisco

The “Eye” pattern, one of the most enduring European designs for the African market, appears in the exhibition in multiple variations and colors.  The original design of 1904 by the Haarlem Cotton Company was inspired by the Egyptian god Horus, a symbol of protection, royal power, and good health.  Some of the eye patterns were intended to silently communicate and identify with a woman’s family and marital relationships.  In Nigeria, the original Haarlem pattern is known as “Eyes”. In Côte d’Ivoire, it is called “Bull’s Eye” and is worn by a woman to show a man that she desires him.  Also in Côte d’Ivoire, the classic “Jumping Horse” pattern expresses rivalry between co-wives.  In Nigeria, Igbo women favor this design for family to express unity at their annual women’s meeting.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global StageDazzling Graphics Collection, 2011, Made by Vlisco, Helmond, Netherlands, Photograph courtesy of Vlisco

The exhibition will touch upon the rise of the most successful market women in Togo, called the Nana Benz, who traded in wax prints beginning in the 1930s. The Nana Benz were essential to the success or failure of the designs.  Wholesalers to other market traders, the women provided Vlisco agents with information on customer preferences. In return, the women were often given exclusive access to certain designs.  A playful design featuring the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star logo pays homage to these traders, as this was their car of choice and became a symbol of their success.  In another design, the Vlisco logo on the radiator grill replaces the car’s original trademark. 

Displayed on mannequins in the center of the gallery is an installation of contemporary designs using the wax fabrics as created by African, diaspora and other international designers. 

One of Nigeria’s foremost fashion designers, Lanre da Silva Ajayi, who is known for her ultra-feminine looks and elegant use of prints, has collaborated with Vlisco on numerous projects including a gala dress on view in the exhibition.  The designer’s ensemble is made in a limited-edition shimmering gold print embellished with the designer’s signature beads and sequins.

Owner and creative director Araba Stephens Akompi of the Ghanaian fashion house Stylista has reconfigured patterns showing a Spanish fan to create a flamenco-style dress with a distinctively African twist. Stylista sees this gala dress as an evolution of the traditional Ghanaian blouse with a matching skirt.

The exhibition features ensembles by Vlisco’s senior fashion designer from 2008 to 2016, Inge van Lierop, who was responsible for translating each seasonal concept into stylish ensembles used for marketing. A strapless, two-piece wedding dress made from two color ways of the same design is embellished with beads, as is the veil, which was embroidered in India. Deconstructed and made into a late 1960s-style mini dress that pays homage to the decade when the design first achieved popularity, the classic “Angelina” pattern associated with the dashiki a loose tunic worn by men and women is updated and re-colored in luminous pastels for a more contemporary look.

The fashions of Manish Arora, one of today’s most inspiring designers, fuse his Indian roots, global style, and contemporary popular culture.  This year, Arora has collaborated with Vlisco for his ready-to-wear collection shown recently in Paris and inspired by the American West.  For his ensemble on display, he has re-interpreted wax prints into knit fabrics. 

Ikiré Jones of Philadelphia, led by Nigerian-American menswear designer, Walé Oyéjidé, shows how the designs can be creatively cut and mixed together for unique looks.  His  hand-tailored trousers, and a jacket made of Vlisco fabric, are accessorized with a storytelling scarf.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage is one of five exhibitions in the Perelman Building this season, accompanied by related programs that feature a broad spectrum of the arts from across the African continent. They feature historical works of art as well as contemporary fashion, photography, design, and architecture. Each calls attention to the continuities and differences between African art forms over the centuries.

The related exhibitions are:

Look Again: Contemporary Perspectives on African Art, a major exhibition drawn from the collection of the Penn Museum (May 14 through December 4, 2016).

Threads of Tradition, focusing on the traditional patterns in West and Central African textiles and the techniques used to create them, including strip weaving, resist dyeing, piecing, appliqué, and embroidery (Through January 2017).

The Architecture of Francis Kéré: Building for Community, featuring a site-specific, immersive environment designed by this world-renowned Burkina-Faso-born architect (May 14–September 25, 2016).

Three Photographers/Six Cities presents an in-depth look at three photographers who create powerful pictures of African cities: Cairo, Egypt; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa; Bamako, and Tombouctou (Timbuktu), Mali. From Akinbode Akinbiyi’s observation of urban centers and Seydou Camara’s examination of Islamic manuscripts to Ananias Léki Dago’s pictures of offbeat locales, the images offer unique perspectives on contemporary African experience (Through September 25, 2016).

Curator: Dilys Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles

Location: Joan Spain Gallery

About Vlisco

Vlisco, founded in 1846, began exporting factory printed cloth to West Africa around 1876. Over the years Vlisco absorbed several Dutch textile manufacturers that also produced wax prints for the market prior to World War I. Today it is the last surviving European wax-resist textile manufacturer. The Vlisco brand is manufactured in Helmond, Netherlands and is the premier brand of the Vlisco group which includes three other brands, GTP and Woodin made in Ghana and Uniwax produced in Cote d’Ivoire. Each brand caters to a distinct segment of the market.

Social Media: #CreativeAfrica 

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art is Philadelphia’s art museum. We are a landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

Thank you to The Philadelphia Museum of Art for the content of this post.

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