Retired Temple professors’ book explores French Philadelphia – The Temple News
Philadelphia City Hall and Benjamin Franklin Parkway can be seen from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on November 29th. The parkway and town hall designs are influenced by French architecture. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS
With thick stonework reminiscent of the style of the French Second Empire, a quick glance at Philadelphia City Hall can take viewers for a moment to the Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall of Paris, France.
As you walk down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum, you may feel like you are strolling down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris towards the Arc de Triomphe.
These similarities are no accident as, according to a new book co-authored by two retired Temple University professors, there are strong French influences everywhere in Philadelphia, from architecture to art to food.
Lynn Miller, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, and Therese Dolan, Professor Emeritus of Art History, have co-authored the book “Salut !: France Meets Philadelphia”, which examines the French influence on Philadelphia’s culture throughout its history. Published December 2020 by Temple University Press, “Salut!” is a collection of five years of research and writing by Miller and Dolan on the history and influence of France in the Philadelphia area, beginning in colonial times and ending in the 19th century.
The book is available from Amazon, the Temple University Press website, the Barnes Foundation, and other bookstores.
In addition to City Hall and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, French influence on architecture extends to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Race Street near 18th and the Free Library of Philadelphia on Vine Street near 20th Century.
The Barnes Foundation is home to French art, including post-impressionist paintings by French artist Pierre Auguste Renoir, and the Rodin Museum, which houses the largest collection of works of art by French painter Auguste Rodin outside of France.
Miller, the vice-president of the Alliance Fraçaise de Philadelphie, an organization focused on the education of the French language and culture, wanted to expand his 2007 book, Philadelphie a la Francaise, to take readers to places of French influence in Philadelphia. After meeting about five years ago, he introduced the idea to Dolan, a board member of the organization.
“We were at the elevator and he said, ‘Why aren’t we writing a book?'” Dolan said. “He said, ‘I do the history and the architecture, and you do the art history.'”
Miller explored the history of French migration to the city and its impact on the architecture and culture in Philadelphia, while Dolan focused her studies on French artwork in the city and in museums. While Miller relied on secondary sources and compiled a summary of research from books, magazines, and articles, Dolan relied on primary sources to understand how both French and Philadelphia artists discussed their work in letters and magazines, and curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Internet interviewed Rodin Museum to learn more about French art history in Philadelphia, she said.
“This gave me an opportunity to look at some of the things I knew on the surface about French influence in the city,” Miller said. “From my point of view, the most interesting thing about it was that the influence is extremely different.”
The French influence on American art dates back to the colonial days, when the French sculpture Jean Antoine Houdon created busts for George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, according to the Met Museum.
In the mid-19th century, American artists studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Broad Street near Cherry were taken to France to study because of the championship at the Louvre, an art museum in Paris, France, and the annual salon urged Dolan added that artists can display their work so the government and wealthy people can buy art.
That push transformed the art scene in the mid-19th century, inspiring artists like Thomas Eakins, a Philadelphia painter, to paint in a more European and French style that was not yet accepted in America, she said.
“[He] got fired because the nude in art in Europe isn’t shocking, but the prudish of American tradition is shocking, ”added Dolan. “When he unpacked a female character in class, he was fired from the academy. But he was a big influence on others. “
Nancy Gabel, the president of Alliance Fraçaise de Philadelphie, had worked with Miller and Dolan on French education for years, she said.
There is a long history of cultural, historical, and artistic ties between Philadelphia and the Francophile world that have resulted in the establishment of institutions such as the Alliance Fraçaise de Philadelphie and the Ecole Fraçaise Internationale, the French International School in Philadelphia, Gabel said.
Through “Salut!” Miller and Dolan used their expertise to highlight Philadelphia’s French influences throughout history and to examine the cultural impact when they performed, she added.
“I know enough about it [Miller] and [Dolan’s] The aim of the book was to make it one of the most definitive works on French connections in our city, ”said Gabel. “I think the combination of the scientific research of these two distinguished academics is a tremendous addition to our knowledge of Philadelphia.”
In addition to the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has a collection of French art, and the Barnes Foundation has other French artists such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, Gabel added.
“So many other aspects of Philadelphia culture are intrinsically related to the Francophone Portal, and I think this book has given a great overview of the various aspects of Philadelphia that many people may not be familiar with,” she said.
With “Salut!” Instead of trying to suggest that French influence is the primary cultural influence on Philadelphia’s history, architecture, and art, Miller and Dolan are trying to show that it is unique to the city, Miller said.
“We say it’s distinctive and important and you see it in all sorts of aspects of city life,” he added. “We found that interesting.”