Author Archives: Ken Finkel

Listening to Lipchitz

Ask Jacques Lipchitz to share his views on art. His response is curious. “You can’t verbalize art. I think when you start to do that you lose exactly your impact, because art is born from darkness, and if you start to clarify it, it goes away.” Ask The Master about “freedom of expression” and he […]
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How Jacques Lipchitz Cheated Death

“If Jacques Lipchitz is not the most overrated sculptor of the twentieth century,” sniped art historian Barbara Rose, “he is certainly in the running.” It was 1972 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective, Jacques Lipchitz: His Life in Sculpture seemed “to go on endlessly,” for Rose. Like so many “miles of stuffed kishka,” all […]
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Balancing the Books for John Moran, Art Photographer

Despite John Moran’s best efforts, Mary Panzer told us, his “photographs were never considered to be art. His audience believed that art was historical and made by hand, whereas Photography was scientific and made by machine. In 1903, the year Moran died, Alfred Steiglitz won the battle to establish photography as a fine art, but […]
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It All Comes Down to “Yo!”

In the time before traffic, air conditioners, leaf blowers and the irritating like, the city’s streets were full of cries. Not cries for help, but calls of peddlers selling (in summer) peaches, watermelons, and ice cream and (during the cooler months) pepper pot soup, hot muffins and split wood. Pretzels, of course, were sold all […]
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Stenton Park: Green, Historic and Minutes Away

James Logan needed to get out of town. At forty, William Penn’s secretary had grown “heartily out of love with the world.” Planning his escape, Logan bought 500 acres five miles from the center of Philadelphia. In a retreat built in the 1720s, this “bookman extraordinary,” (he amassed a library of astronomy, mathematics, physics, linguistics, […]
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From Classic to Electric: Art Deco and American Business

Every once in a while, art and life imitate one other, sometimes with interesting results. Such was evident recently when the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Comcast’s request to replace the GE logo atop 30 Rockefeller Center. In 2011, writers of the comedy TV series 30 Rock predicted as much. What they didn’t predict, […]
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The View from 27th and Aspen Streets

Artist Augustus Kollner hit the ground running as soon as he arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in 1839. Thing is, the ground in Philadelphia was changing under Kollner’s feet. In watercolors, lithographs and etchings, Kollner captured scenes of a city in transition, a grid expanding uniformly to accommodate the railroad, the factory and miles of […]
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The Labor Lyceum Movement in Philadelphia

Of all the places where Mother Jones might have started her famous 1903 protest known as the March of the Mill Children, which did she find the most strategic? Philadelphia’s Kensington Labor Lyceum at 2nd and Cambria Streets. Of all the halls where Mother Jones might have advised a thousand young seamstresses on the verge […]
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Reflections on a Funeral (for a Home)

The gathered mourners were done sharing memories. The moving eulogy was over and the choir’s hymn reached its final “amen,” echoing a dozen times through the streets of Mantua. Now, the waiting excavator reared back, its giant claw raised against the blue sky hovering over the two-story rowhouse at 3711 Melon Street. The Funeral for […]
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Mother Jones and the Fight Against Child Labor in Kensington’s Textile Mills

“During the Philadelphia textile workers’ strike in 1903,” wrote reformer John Spargo in his 1916 book, The Bitter Cry of the Children, “I saw at least a score of children ranging from eight to ten years of who had been working in the mills prior to the strike. One little girl of nine I saw […]
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