The Art of Larry Day

Larry Day

Woodmere Art Museum is organizing The Art of Larry Day (working title), an exhibition that will explore the achievements of Larry Day (1921–1998), one of the most respected and influential artists of Philadelphia of the twentieth century. The exhibition will take place in 2021, celebrating the centennial of the artist’s birth and the trajectory of his career with approximately ninety paintings and works on paper. 

Day, who practiced abstraction in the 1950s and showed his work with members of the New York School, contributed to conversations in American art that refocused attention on figurative representation. His work explores the manner in which art gives shape to everyday life and prompts questions about the interface between personal subjectivity and civic identity. His paintings are admired for their dual qualities of subtle precision and formal dynamism. Likewise, his drawings are prized for the strength and delicacy of his draftsmanship. 

Born Lorenzo del Giorno to an Italian father and a Scottish mother in Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life, Day served in the Pacific campaign of World War II, after which he attended college on the GI Bill. He graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 1949, also earning a degree in education there the following year. Almost immediately thereafter, he began his career as an instructor, briefly in the Philadelphia public schools, but primarily as an anchor figure in the painting department of the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) from 1953 to 1988 and the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania. Day was revered as a “guru” by his peers and students. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with contributions by authors who explore American art and culture in the second half of the twentieth century. The catalogue will also include selections of Day’s own writings, unpublished as well as previously published, which are significant contributions to an understanding of the shifting terrain of abstraction and figurative representation in American art. 

Day’s work is represented in numerous museum collections, including the British Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Woodmere Art Museum.  

Woodmere is seeking to fully represent the breadth and depth of Day’s accomplishments and would welcome expressions of interest from other museums interested in hosting the exhibition. We also encourage collectors, friends, and museum colleagues to share stories about Day and alert us to works of art that we may not know. We also welcome information and photographs of works to be considered for inclusion in the exhibition. Please contact Rachel McCay, Assistant Curator, at