Outside the Lines
For 150 years, the Philadelphia Sketch Club has been the catalyst for an exceptional body of work that continues to grow. We spotlight the Main Line artists integral to the PSC’s remarkable longevity.
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Narberth’s Elizabeth Hutton MacDonald grew up wanting to go to the Antarctic with Adm. Richard E. Byrd, or perhaps practice medicine. But it was easiest for her to become an artist—and so she did.
“It seemed natural,” she says. “I had lessons in everything—the whole gamut—but the art lessons were the easiest. By the time I was a teenager, I was already selling my artwork.”
She had the genes. Her father, Hugh Hutton, was a political cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1934 to 1974. Her mother, Dorothy Wackerman Hutton, specialized in watercolors and prints. She was also an engraver, etcher and lithographer. She lived to be 102 (more good genes). Elizabeth, who goes by Betty, is only 83.
The family was the recent subject of the exhibition The Art Gene: The Hutton Family Legacy at the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College. The exhibit featured 98 pieces by MacDonald, her parents and a niece, Susan Hutton DeAngelus, a graphic artist. It’s the first time all four have been in the same exhibit. MacDonald’s pieces covered the spectrum of her vast talents: lacework, embroidery, oil painting, monotype, etching, watercolor and silhouettes.
The progressive-minded MacDonald joined the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 1990, the first year women were permitted at the oldest and longest continuously running artists’ organization in the country. She served as the club’s first female president. She’s been its secretary and house chair, too, and she now monitors the long standing Monday print workshop at its South Camac Street headquarters.
DeAngelus designs the PSC newsletter. At the Plastic Club—the once female-only artists companion club three doors down on South Camac Street—she’s been president three times. She’s now the archivist.
As house chair, MacDonald cleaned the PSC, where a cartoon by her father once hung on the wall of the men’s room. He was a member from 1941 to 1976. MacDonald’s mom first joined the Plastic Club in 1940. Both belonged to the Philadelphia Art Alliance, but they were told that if they really wanted to meet other artists, they had to join the PSC and Plastic Club to “sit around and chew the fat.”
“The [PSC] was definitely an old gentlemen’s club, with smoking and drinking and falling on your faces,” says MacDonald.
The PSC allowed women to submit art to its shows and would also host square dances. Wives could come—Hugh often brought MacDonald and some of her friends to dance. “It could be snowing or a hurricane, but they wouldn’t miss it,” MacDonald says of her parents.
The PSC’s 150th anniversary will be celebrated with a grand dinner at its headquarters on Nov. 20. It’s a culmination of the massive arts organization’s 15-month anniversary celebration of exhibits at 15 local art institutions. For the anniversary gala, the PSC’s Joseph Pennell Medal—awarded every five years in honor of the early-1920s president—will be presented to the Brandywine Valley’s Jamie Wyeth. The PSC was the setting for the first solo exhibition by Jamie’s grandfather, N.C. Wyeth. The exhibit was recently recreated at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford as part of the club’s anniversary celebration. N.C. was a member from 1911 to 1919.
The Philadelphia Sketch Club’s connections to the Huttons and other talented Main Liners are among the reasons why this storied institution has endured as long as it has. Their stories are reflected in all their brilliance in the rich array of art on these pages.