Sam Feinstein, Group ‘55, and Midcentury Abstraction in Philadelphia


In 1955, a group of Philadelphia painters, architects, musicians, and dancers organized a series of exhibitions and public forums across the city, presenting their work as a catalyst for vigorous public dialogue about the role of art and science in the postwar era. Group ’55, as they came to be known, was led by the artist Sam Feinstein. Their public forums included architect Louis Kahn, composer George Rochberg, and painters Charles Bechtle, Quita Brodhead, Michael Ciliberti, Sam Fried, Sanford Greenberg, Raymond Hendler, Frances Lachman, Sam Maitin, Patricia Mangione, Jane Piper, Doris Staffel, and many others.

This is a multi-venue initiative that involves two exhibitions at Woodmere: Sam Feinstein: Immersive Abstraction, on view from July 25 through January 24, and Group ’55 and Midcentury Abstraction in Philadelphia, on view from September 26, 2020 through January 24, 2021. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy is organizing and presenting Sam Feinstein: The Early Years, opening on September 26, 2020.

The three exhibitions are brought together in a printed catalogue, Sam Feinstein, Group ‘55, and Midcentury Abstraction in Philadelphia. The catalogue will include transcripts of their public forums and historic materials never before made public. Patricia Stark Feinstein, who has overseen Feinstein’s archive of Group ’55 material, is organizing the exhibition in collaboration with the Museum. Barbara Wolanin, a distinguished art historian whose specialization is American modernism, is guest curator, and she will contribute an essay that represents the first detailed account of the accomplishments of Group ’55 and its subsequent offshoot, the Philadelphia Abstract Artists.

Sam Feinstein: Immersive Abstraction features Feinstein’s large-scale paintings from 1960 through the 2000s.

Sam Feinstein: The Early Years is presented at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in their Barbara Crawford Gallery, named for Crawford, a member of Group ’55 and Feinstein’s first wife. Sam Feinstein taught at Chestnut Hill Academy from 1938 to 1942. The exhibition will feature watercolors, paintings, and illustrations from 1930 to the mid-1950s depicting his journey from political realism and illustration to gestural abstraction. Also included in the exhibition will be Feinstein’s film on his friend and artist Hans Hofmann. This short documentary, One World or None, offers a rare and intimate view of the artist’s philosophy and practice.

Anyone with information about Group ’55 is invited to contact Assistant Curator Rachel Hruszkewycz at


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