Arts and Entertainment

Palmer Museum of Art showcases the exuberant art of Lucille Corcos

Lucille Corcos, "Everybody’s Downtown," 1948, tempera on board, 14-1/2 x 11-1/8 inches. Collection of David and Susan Werner. Credit: Palmer Museum of Art / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State presents "The Wit and Whimsy of Lucille Corcos," an exhibition featuring the playful work of mid-20th-century artist and prolific illustrator Lucille Corcos (1908–1973). Organized by the Palmer Museum, the exhibition is the first devoted to Corcos in more than 22 years and her first solo museum exhibition ever.

“This vibrant exhibition shines the light on a little-studied, but influential, figure in the development of the modernist primitivist tradition in American art,” said Erin M. Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “It provides a rare opportunity to see a broad range of works by an American woman artist who should be much better known.”

Corcos was born and raised in New York City and studied at the Art Students League in the late 1920s. Following her breakthrough cover for the January 1931 issue of Vanity Fair, her work became highly sought after by well-known magazines of the day, including Fortune, Life, and Vogue. In 1941, she and her family moved to upstate New York. She continued to excel in commercial illustration work and exhibited regularly at art galleries and museums, including participating almost annually in group shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the years between 1936 and 1954.

"The Wit and Whimsy of Lucille Corcos" examines three pivotal decades of Corcos’ career through more than two dozen of her most significant tempera and watercolor paintings. Her small-scale, almost miniature, paintings in a semi-naïve style were lauded for their exactness in detail, multitude of figures and unique aerial perspective. Corcos pioneered a distinctive cutaway technique that revealed the interiors of buildings, as if granting the observer the ability to see clear through solid walls. The exhibition brings together works recently acquired by the Palmer Museum and loans from several museums and private collections.

“Lucille Corcos, both in her life and in her work, had a flair for navigating different milieus — whether it was career ambitions and domestic demands or big-city spectacles and small-town gatherings,” said Adam Thomas, curator of American art at the Palmer Museum. “Her brightly colored and densely packed scenes often seem to straddle the line between exuberant celebrations and mischievous send-ups of social situations.”

The exhibition will be on view at the Palmer Museum of Art through May 9.

For those who want to learn more about the artist, a virtual museum conversation on Corcos’ life and art, led by curator Adam Thomas, will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 8. Register for the Zoom event here.

Free timed tickets can be reserved through the Palmer website to visit 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, with the last timed ticket reservation at 4:30 p.m. for half an hour. The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and some holidays.

About the Palmer

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 10,000 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 nine 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.

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

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

Lucille Corcos, <em>At Grand Central Galleries, New York</em>, 1940, 17-1/2 x 13-1/2 inches, watercolor and gouache on paper. Collection of David and Susan Werner  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated March 23, 2021