Notes and Comments / Nouvelles brèves - 1983 Winterthur Conference, "German-American Art and Culture," 3-4 October 1983, The Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware

Notes and Comments / Nouvelles brèves

1983 Winterthur Conference, "German-American Art and Culture," 3-4 October 1983, The Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware

Janet Houghton McIntyre

1 The theme of the biennial conference, "German-American Art and Culture," was selected to extend and enrich the current celebration of the 300th anniversary of German settlement in Pennsylvania, which has been observed in the region with a variety of special events and exhibits. The best known museum contribution to the Tricentennial has been the major exhibition "The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of Their Arts, 1683-1850," co-sponsored by the Winterthur Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition, which opened in Philadelphia in October 1982, has been on tour this year in Houston, San Francisco, and Chicago. The recent Winterthur Conference opened by considering some of the same themes explored in Philadelphia and then extended its scholarly reach into the late nineteenth century and the American Midwest.

2 The two-day conference examined several elements of German-American art and culture to find distinctive ethnic patterns of behaviour, and to watch how such patterns changed or persisted in new settlements as they matured. Architecture, furniture, prints, and painting were all considered as the conference followed a rough temporal progression from the vernacular domestic architecture of the first settlers to the professional interior designs of Germans exhibiting at the 1893 St. Louis World's Fair.

3 The conference proceeded smoothly and quickly from topic to topic, assisted by well-informed session coordinators and by speakers who were at ease with their material and the slides they presented. Among the most valuable and informative lectures were those by W.W. Weaver on the architecture of the Pennsylvania German house, and by W. H. Pierson Jr. on German influence in the nineteenth-century architectural designs of Richard Upjohn.

4 A few of the presentations were limited in their usefulness, either by a too narrow focus or by awkward handling of the material presented. It was disappointing to see that no speaker was present to remind the conference of the considerable early German settlement in Ontario, much of it channelled through Pennsylvania in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. None the less, Michael Bird's and Terry Kobayashi's, A Splendid Harvest: Germanic Volk and Decorative Arts in Canada (Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981 ), was available at the conference and should provide an especially valuable resource for scholars in Pennsylvania this year, when so much attention is being focused on the region's German heritage.

5 The Winterthur Conference was held concurrently with a four-day symposium on German-American political and social history, held at the German Department of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In addition, the Winterthur Museum is planning to collect and publish the conference papers, and is about to issue a major thematic catalogue of its own related artifact collections. The catalogue is entitled Arts of the Pennsylvania Germans and will be published by W.W. Norton in November 1983. These added scholarly projects should help to extend the influence and value of the conference for many years to come.

Janet Houghton McIntyre