Arts and Architecture

Palmer Museum of Art announces 2020 exhibition lineup

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State proudly announces its exhibition schedule for 2020. This year’s shows celebrate a diverse spectrum of artistic voices and highlight significant gifts as well as important cultural milestones.

Dan people, Liberia and Ivory Coast, "Face Mask (tankagle)," 20th century, wood, 8 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 3 1/8 inches.  Credit: Collection of Allen and Barbara DavisAll Rights Reserved.

The new year begins with the opening of "Drawing on a Legacy: Highlights from the John Driscoll American Drawings Collection," which presents selections from the transformational 2018 gift of 140 works on paper from Penn State alumnus John P. Driscoll. Featuring rare and outstanding American drawings produced between the late 18th century and the early 20th century, the exhibition provides the first opportunity to sample the breadth and scope of this formative collection.

Opening in February, "African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting," will showcase more than 80 works from East, Central, and West Africa collected over six decades by Ambassador Allen Davis. This major loan exhibition will be accompanied by a rich array of programming including a lecture series, noontime gallery talks, and family-friendly art activities.

Another substantial loan exhibition, featuring monumental abstract paintings, Amish quilts, and Pennsylvania German painted objects, will open in late June and remain on view through the fall. "Field Language: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer" will present the work of an extraordinary couple who together left the rural lifeways of their Mennonite upbringing to go “into the world” and create modern art. Complementing the Rohrer retrospective will be a selection of 19th-century Pennsylvania prints from the museum’s notable Tavern Collection, followed by an exhibition highlighting artists who explore the language of abstraction in response to the natural world.

The 2020 season is rounded out with exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection that celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and mark the centennial of women’s right to vote.

Each exhibition in 2020 is organized by the Palmer Museum of Art.

Admission to the museum is free. See list below for complete information on the 2020 Exhibition Schedule. For more information, visit the Palmer Museum website at

Palmer Museum of Art 2020 exhibition schedule:

"Drawing on a Legacy: Highlights from the John Driscoll American Drawings Collection"

Jan. 21 to June 7

The gift of 140 works on paper from Penn State alumnus John P. Driscoll in 2018 dramatically reshaped the Palmer Museum of Art’s holdings of American art. "Drawing on a Legacy" is the first exhibition to spotlight selections from this significant collection of watercolors and drawings and will feature some thirty works by a diverse group of 19th-century American artists. 

Early landscape views and botanical sketches, animal scenes and still lifes, and portraits and preparatory figure studies are among the subjects highlighted in the exhibition. Artists represented include many well-known luminaries of the period—John Vanderlyn, William Trost Richards, and Edwin Howland Blashfield — along with lesser-known figures whose work deserves further study. Drawing on a Legacy surveys an array of techniques and media, including graphite, charcoal, ink, and watercolor, and explores the changing cultural importance of drawing during the so-called “long” 19th century. 

"Grounded: Environments in Flux"

Jan. 21 to May 31

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this spring, "Grounded: Environments in Flux" invites us to consider the impact of humankind on the planet, both past, present, and future. This select group of works by contemporary artists celebrates the poetry and power of nature as well as the prosaic reality of environmental degradation resulting from modern interventions. Artists featured include Nancy Azara, Betsy Damon, Mark Dion, Steve McCurry, Ana Mendieta, Catherine Opie, Rachelle Puryear, Jerry Uelsmann, and Carrie Mae Weems.  

"African Brilliance: A Diplomat's Sixty Years of Collecting"

Feb. 8 to May 24 

"African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting" presents a wide-ranging selection of African art from the notable collection amassed by Ambassador Allen Davis. His long career with the U.S. State Department afforded him the opportunity to build an outstanding collection representing many of the key cultures of West, Central, and East Africa. The exhibition features 83 objects by 20th-century African artists from a variety of cultures across the continent, including the Dan people of Liberia, the Mossi and Lobi peoples of Burkina Faso, the Dogon and Bamana peoples of Mali, the Akan peoples of Ghana, and the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others. The works include carved and decorated wooden sculptures, natural fiber and beaded textiles, metalwork, and ceramic pots that represent household, community, and ritual practices.

"African Brilliance" will feature works from the Palmer’s permanent collection as well as loans from Allen and Barbara Davis, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of African Art, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.

An online catalogue will feature interviews with Davis and members of the Penn State community who have had firsthand experience with the types of objects on view, as well as essays by scholars William Dewey, associate professor of art history and director of the African Studies Program at Penn State, Janet Purdy, doctoral candidate in art history at Penn State, and Mary Jo Arnoldi, curator emerita of African ethnology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

"Pennsylvania Scenery: Early Landscape Prints from the Tavern Collection"

June 14 to Aug. 23

Pennsylvania’s natural beauty figured prominently in early 19th-century literary journals and publications celebrating the American landscape. This exhibition will feature a selection of picturesque highlights from the “Tavern Collection” of Pennsylvania prints amassed by John C. O’Connor and Ralph M. Yeager and gifted to the Palmer Museum nearly 35 years ago.  

"The Wit and Whimsy of Lucille Corcos"

June 21 to Sept. 20

An American painter and illustrator, Lucille Corcos depicted modern life, particularly during the 1940s and ’50s, with an incomparable verve. These pivotal decades of Corcos’ career are examined through many of her most significant tempera paintings and watercolors, her preferred media. This presentation will be the first exhibition devoted to Corcos in more than 22 years.  

"Field Language: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer"

June 28 to Dec. 6

This major loan exhibition examines the art of Warren Rohrer (1927–1995) as it evolved in conversation with poet Jane Turner Rohrer (b. 1928), his partner of nearly 50 years. The dialogues "Field Language" traces flow between husband and wife, painting and poetry, and between tradition and modernism. Both Rohrers left the rural lifeways of a Mennonite upbringing to go “into the world.” 

Over the course of his four-decade career, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, Rohrer’s paintings became larger and more abstract, but his modernist progression remained consistently engaged with tradition. His abstractions evoke the fields of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where his family farmed for nine generations, while his mark-making recalls the meticulous, repetitive labor of farming and craftwork. Jane Rohrer’s poetry offers narrative context and emotional depth to the experience of her husband’s paintings, registering ambivalence about the relationship of modern artists to tradition and reflecting on the links between painting and poetry. 

Featuring some 50 works, including paintings and works on paper, Amish quilts, and examples of Pennsylvania German painted crockery and furniture, "Field Language" invites us to consider issues of land use, the sustainability of rural communities and cultures, and our own relationships with agricultural landscapes, seasonal change, labor, and human need and desire. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. 

"Mark Makers: The Language of Abstraction"

Sept. 8 to Dec. 6

Like many mid-century modernists, painter Warren Rohrer confessed to being “obsessed with stroke-making” or making marks. Indeed, his statement “My subject is the STROKE” is often repeated in the literature on his life and work. Drawn largely from the Palmer's permanent collection and the rich collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this intimate show brings together works by a number of notable “mark makers,” including Alma Thomas, who, like Rohrer, drew inspiration from the natural world. Also included in the exhibition will be works on paper by Rohrer, Mark Tobey, Henry Pearson, and Alan Gussow, as well as recent works by Mary Judge and Jo Margolis.  

The presentation of this exhibition is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multiyear, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. 

"Power in My Hand: Celebrating Women’s Suffrage"

Sept. 29 to Dec. 13

In honor of the centennial of Women’s Suffrage, "Power in My Hand" will feature some 25 works by women artists drawn from the permanent collection. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from American poet Emily Dickinson, who–well over a century ago–took up her powerful pen and “went against the World” in pursuit of her writing. Her words still resonate with meaning today and conjure the indomitable spirit of suffragettes who fought for the right to vote, as well as artists who challenged the male-dominated art world throughout much of the 20th century. Artists featured include Diana Al-Hadid, Rina Banerjee, Mary Lee Bendolph, Lee Bontecou, Minna Citron, Sonia Gechtoff, Hung Liu, Elizabeth Quinlan, Faith Ringgold, Anne Ryan, Alison Saar and Kay WalkingStick. 

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,600 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents ten exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and  noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a new University Art Museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building would dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It would be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at

Last Updated January 10, 2020