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German-American Folk Art Exhibit Opens at Philadelphia Museum of Art

By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A temporary exhibition of Pennsylvania folk art has made its debut at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The exhibit, from the private collection of Joan and Victor Johnson, contains more than 230 pieces of Pennsylvania German writings and drawings, called "frakturs."

"They were records of their life, birth, death, school, rewards of merit, things that involve their everyday life," notes collection owner Joan Johnson (top photo), who says she started collecting frakturs decades ago, while looking for art to decorate the walls of the Montgomery County farmhouse she shares with her husband, Victor.

johnson fraktur _hadas
(Photo by Hadas Kuznits)


(Kuznits:)  "So, these are private pieces of art?"

(Johnson:)  "Exactly.  They are meaningful to that particular family, and they were usually put in their bibles or in their dowry chests, where they never saw the light of day, thank goodness.  So that's why they are in such good condition.  And they were cherished for generation after generation."

Johnson says the pieces are from Lancaster, York, Reading, Allentown, and upstate Pennsylvania, plus some from the Germantown section of early Philadelphia.

"They are done by farmers and schoolteachers, not professional like the European ones," Johnson points out.  "Remember, they couldn't farm in the winter, so in the winter months is when they were most active (with artwork)."

The frakturs are on display, in the Perelman Building of art museum, until the end of April.


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