Daniel GarberA Wooded Watershed, 1926, oil on canvas, H. 129.25 x W. 257.25 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Acquired with a Legislative Initiative Grant awarded by Senator H. Craig Lewis.

Tip #10 – A work of art can be an inspiration to make more original works of art.

When you visit the Michener Art Museum, one of the works that stands out is A Wooded Watershed by Daniel Garber. It is not just the sheer size (approximately 11 feet x 21 feet!) or its unusual shape (it is a semi-circle or lunette), but perhaps it is more about the subject itself.

In A Wooded Watershed, the viewer is set in the woods in what appears to be on top of a hill. It is as if the trees have parted and given the viewer a glimpse at the water in the distance. One sees trees, animals, water, mountains, but no signs of humans.  Garber imagined Pennsylvania at a time before industry, before agriculture, and before human intrusion. The setting is the Delaware Water Gap, which was a popular vacation spot for Philadelphians and New Yorkers in the 1920’s. Travel brochures promoted this “natural wonder” of Pennsylvania, as a retreat from the pressures of city life. The Delaware Water Gap stood for the rural over the urban. In A Wooded Watershed, Garber portrayed an idealized image of rural Pennsylvania – of Pennsylvania as a paradise.

In 2019, A Wooded Watershed was used in a unique program called A River Flows Through Art: A Catalyst for Change in partnership with the environmental agency, Heritage Conservancy. The program combined the theme of nature in art with environmental science. Students from three schools in the region participated for five weeks in a mural based project where each student created an individual work of art to become part of a larger collective mural. A prominent unifying visual feature of this collaborative mural was “the (Delaware) river,” which is featured in Garber’s A Wooded Watershed. You can see these works created by students in a special online feature that was on display in the Museum’s galleries.

What is your favorite artwork in the Michener’s collection? Has it inspired you to create something new?

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