For many decades, Doris Staffel (b. 1921), a former student of both Philip Guston and Hans Hofmann, and a former colleague of Franz Kline, has been one of Philadelphia’s preeminent abstract painters and colorists. Honoring that long commitment to the art of Philadelphia, Woodmere will present the first exhibition to examine her entire career, as well as her first solo show in a museum. The exhibition brings together the fourteen paintings and works on paper by Staffel in Woodmere’s collection, pieces that represent her various career phases from the 1940s to the present, along with loans from public and private collections.
Her own paintings and drawings incorporate abstracted figurative and foliage elements applied with sinuous lines and differentiated applications of thick and thin paint. A critic once compared her use of color and line to “the infinitely expressive movements of a trained dancer, Staffel’s mastery of pure painting reflects a lifetime of discipline and exploration.”
Now in her nineties, Staffel was born and raised in Brooklyn, and moved to Philadelphia, in 1940, to study at the Tyler School of Art. An influential figure to younger artists, she taught for twenty-seven years at The University of the Arts.
Concurrent with Staffel’s solo exhibition, Woodmere will present a smaller assemblage of works that highlight three generations of Philadelphia artists: her teachers, colleagues, and students. Drawn mostly from Woodmere’s permanent collection, it includes several recent acquisitions and promised gifts exhibited here for the first time.
An exhibition catalogue, the first devoted to Staffel’s work, will include the previously unpublished essay “Some Thoughts on Doris Staffel’s Paintings” (1973) by the painter Larry Day (1921–1998); short essays on Staffel’s influence by painters Betsey Batchelor, Joe Fyfe, Alex Kanevsky, Ron Rumford and Stuart Shils; an essay by her granddaughter, Annabeth Marks, who is also a painter; the transcript of a recent conversation with Doris Staffel and artists Jan Baltzell, Nancy Hellebrand, and Bill Scott; an interview with the artist’s brother, Howard Blitman; an exhibition checklist; and a detailed chronology of the artist’s life and career.