Thursday evening marks the eighth annual Wanda Hollensteiner Conservation Lecture. Through the generous support of alumna Wanda Peterson Hollensteiner‘54 and her husband Jim Hollensteiner, the Wright Museum of Art conserves a painting from the permanent collection each year, and celebrates the return of the work to the museum with a lecture given by a prominent scholar. Previous years have seen works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Alexander Helwig Wyant. This year’s work By The Falls is by the Philadelphia artist George Frederick Bensell (1837–1879). This painting depicts a family of Native Americans standing high on a rocky outcrop and looking to the distant valley below where a locomotive plows through a dense forest of trees. By The Falls was donated in 2013 by Rev. Richard Miller, father of alumna Priscilla Miller Fox’81 and Pam Miller Withers’78.
By the Falls is oil on canvas painted by Bensell around 1875. Bensell, a founder and president of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, specialized in portraits, landscapes, historical and other subjects for wealthy clients. Another of his paintings, St. Genevieve of Brabant in the Forest, hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Since its arrival at the Wright Museum, By the Falls has piqued the interest of numerous students. Jonah Stollar‘15 drew upon the work in his docent tours, explaining the stylistic differences between the Hudson River school and Regionalist painters. Claire Aichholzer‘15 spent her senior year assembling an exhibition on the topic of Manifest Destiny, which prominently featured Bensell’s By the Falls.
Thursday night, Joni Kinsey, Professor of American Art History at the University of Iowa, will give a lecture on the piece. The Wright Museum will open at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday for a reception and viewing of Bensell’s work. The reception will be held in the courtyard of the Wright Museum, and the lecture will take place promptly at 7 p.m. in the Logan Room located on the 2nd floor of the Wright Museum. Visitors are encouraged to view the painting, and the other conserved work on display in the Hollensteiner gallery.