Thursday, August 27, 2015

What do These Two Men Have in Common With The Ephrata Cloister?

Henry Rankin Poore
Joseph Pennell

Both of them were artists and both visited the Ephrata Cloister in the in early 1880’s working together to depict the Ephrata Cloister in artistic renderings for an article written by the historian, Oswald Seidensticker.
Walk in the very footsteps of these renowned artists as you visit the places they depicted back in the 1880’s with this once in a year opportunity.  Special upstairs tours of the historic structures at the Ephrata Cloister during our Founders Day/Block Party, September 12th, 2015.
In 1881 The Century Magazine decided to do a story on the curious decaying old buildings and community of Ephrata.  They hired Oswald Seidensticker, professor of German Language at the University of Pennsylvania, and a specialist in the history of early German immigrants to Pennsylvania, to write the story.  To illustrate the story, “A Colonial Monastery,” The Century Magazine commissioned two young artists who were sharing studio space in Philadelphia: Joseph Pennell and Henry Rankin Poore.  Both artists had studied at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and were early in their respective careers, and both would go on to become well known in the art world. 
Henry RankinPoore was the son of a prominent clergyman and would have likely followed his father’s profession until he saw paintings at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The works inspired him to take up art and after studying in New York, he came to Philadelphia.  Later he would paint the south-western United States, France, and England where he became known for his sporting and landscape painting.  Joseph Pennell was a native of Philadelphia where he studied and first worked.  Later, he would travel and make his home in England.  He became known for his lithography and illustrations.  During World War I, he produced a shocking poster in support of Liberty Bonds showing the New York harbor under attack and in flames along with the Statue of Liberty in flames. It was an extremely effective piece of war time propaganda, helping to bring the United States into World War I on the side of the Allies.  
Joseph Pennell's Liberty Bonds Poster

The artwork that accompanied the article, written in the romantic literary style of the day, greatly complimented the air of decay and decline and captured the mood perfectly. On Saturday, September 12th, see Ephrata through the eyes of these famous artists and see what they saw in the early 1880’s
“..odd looking antiquated buildings , the larger of which are the convents, the former abodes of the Ephrata Monks and nuns. Their high gable roofs and the irregularly distributed little windows give them a peculiar appearance of a little known place where one can breathe the musty air of langsyne.” 

“In one of the cells of the sister’s house, the Saron, we noticed a huge hamper, much too large for the apertures of the incasing cell.  How was this overgrown basket ever squeezed through so narrow an opening? It never was.  An industrious nun, bent upon doing some good and useful work for the monastery, plied in her cell, for many days and weeks, her busy hands, to weave for domestic needs that extraordinary piece of wicker-work.  She did not discover, until she had finished it, that it was much too large to fit through the door of her cell. And so it remains there, in perpetuam rei memoriam. “

“In the Saron, also, a number of families and single women have been accommodated.  A large number of these rooms are vacant or stored with old furniture, spinning wheels, or household utensils, and the remnants of old five plate cook stoves, the metal plates long gone and only the bricks remaining.”
Learn about these artists as well as Howard Pyle and Andrew Wyeth, both of whom visited and depicted the Ephrata Cloister in their art work. On Saturday, September 12th, you too can take advantage of a rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of these famous artists as well as visit a part of the Ephrata Cloister rarely open to the public. This coming September 12th, from 10AM-4PM, join us for our Founders’ Day – Block Party Event. A limited number of special guided tours will be given of the upper floors of the Sister’s House and Meetinghouse by reservation only at 10AM, 11:30AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM. See our website for more details.
Nick Siegert

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