Ethel V. Ashton, River Drive

Ethel V. Ashton: River Drive (c. 1960) Oil on canvas
River Drive
c. 1960
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Museum purchase, 2011
44 x 54 in.

Ashton depicts an African American family strolling along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. Ashton's representations of African American families are wonderful for their ease, straightforwardness, and deliberate refusal to repeat normative stereotypes. Quick brushstrokes and dynamic, angular shapes transform the individuals into a figurative mass of interlocking lines and colors. An opening into space along the upper edge at center suggests an underpass beneath one of Kelly Drive's many bridges.

According to the Ashton family, River Drive is one of Ashton's last major oil paintings. Although she continued to paint and make pastel sketches through the early 1970s, she exhibited infrequently and became increasingly involved in her work as librarian and director of the alumni Fellowship program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. There she was like a grandmother to students and faculty alike, as well as the quasi-official ombudsman.


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