History of PAFA's Annual Exhibitions

In 1969, the 164th Academy Annual Exhibition closed the longest running event in American museum history. The annual exhibitions, commencing in 1811, brought, by a conservative estimate, over one hundred thousand works of art to Philadelphia audiences in about 185 separate exhibitions.

Jury

The annual exhibitions were large group shows -- frequently displaying over 700 works -- in which about two thirds of the participating artists were selected by jury and the rest were invited. The number of participating artists ranged from about 100 in the various war or depression eras, up to a high of about 400 in some peak periods. Most artists showed just one or two works. The concept of a large juried exhibition ultimately derived from the French Academy salons, which were the make or break venue for artists from the middle of the eighteenth century to the 1860s. The dense hanging arrangement seen in this 1876 annual was the standard method set by the French Academy a century earlier.

From 1811 to the early 1880s European art was shown in the annuals, but by 1885 only American works were accepted. Most works were for sale and several dozen pieces were usually sold with a small commission going to the Academy. Artists sought a place in the Academy annual for prestige and potential sales, as well as cash prizes and medals, the most important of which, the Temple Gold Medal, was awarded over eighty times.

The Academy annuals were among the two or three most prestigious and important exhibitions in the country and one of the premier venues in America for artists to offer their newest productions to the public. After 1920 powerful new forces swept the American art scene and the large group exhibitions declined in power and importance.

JuryThe works shown in Philadelphia were frequently seen, shortly before or shortly after our venue, in the annual exhibitions of other major American institutions such as the National Academy of Design in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie in Pittsburgh and the Corcoran in Washington. It was not unusual for staff to pack and ship an entire boxcar of artworks in one twenty-four hour period so that it could arrive in time at the next venue – a veritable road show of American art.

Until 1903 the annual exhibitions included works in all media. In 1904 watercolors, prints, and drawings were segregated into a separate annual exhibition. Thus, from 1904 to 1953, the Academy mounted two annual exhibitions per year, an undertaking which in the words of Joseph Fraser, the Academy Director, “consumed the small staff utterly.” The slide, of 1938, hints at the size of the undertaking.

In the mid twentieth century the Academy and most of the other large national shows made format modifications due to the financial and logistical problems presented by these extravaganzas, with the Academy changing to one show per year in 1957, alternating oils and sculpture with works on paper exhibitions until the close in 1969.

The exhibitions provided the Academy and Philadelphia with a prestigious display of current American art. Visitors routinely saw the work of artists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, William M. Chase, Cecilia Beaux, or Thomas Eakins, and in the twentieth century, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh, Theodore Roszak and Max Weber. In this installation image from 1893, PAFA purchased the Frank Duveneck, Turkish Page.


The impact of the Academy Annuals on American art history cannot be overstated. Its records provide information on various aspects of an artist’s career and today constitute an indispensable resource in the study of American art.

While the Art Institute of Chicago ended its annuals in 1986, the Carnegie still mounts the triennial Carnegie International, changed from an annual format in 1955. The Whitney (not founded until 1932) converted to a biennial in 1972, and the Corcoran series, begun in 1907, switched to a biennial in 1910.

Why did the Academy end the annuals, when other institutions carried on with modified formats? Some of the factors affecting the Academy decision were:

--competition from the private art dealers as the method by which most artists present their newest work to the public

--progressive artists’ disdain for such large group presentations, as well as any kind of jurying, a process widely perceived as an outdated, conservative format

--a relatively conservative Philadelphia public who consistently bought the regional artists’ work – generally the artists who had been juried in - and not the more modern pieces presented by the invited artists

--the rise of New York as the center of the American art world and competition from more modern oriented institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney; and the larger cash prizes offered at other exhibitions

--the stated intention of the Academy to make its annuals representative of the art produced across the entire country, not just the east coast avant garde

--the huge financial drain presented by the annuals, especially since we paid the shipping, insurance, and jurying expenses – a huge sum; and the end of the city’s $25,000 yearly subsidy to the Academy

Written by Cheryl Leibold (PAFA's Archivist, 1985-2010)

-Browse photographs by artists documented

-Browse photographs by year

-Browse installation photographs by year

-Finding Aid for Annual Exhibition collection

-Finding Aid for Annual Exhibition photographs

Year Title Open Close Digitized Photos of Works of Art Documented Digitized Installation Photography
1811 1st Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1812 2nd Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1813 3rd Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1814 4th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1815 5th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1817 6th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1818 7th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1819 8th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1820 9th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1821 10th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1822 11th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1823 12th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1824 13th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1825 14th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1826 15th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1827 16th Annual Exhibition May 1811      
1828 17th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1829 18th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1830 19th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1831 21st Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1832 21st Annual Exhibition (2nd?) May 1811 June 1811    
1834 23rd Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1849 26th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1850 27th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1851 28th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1852 29th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1853 30th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1854 31st Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811 1854 - 31st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1855 32nd Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1856 33rd Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1857 34th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1858 35th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1859 36th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1860 37th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1861 38th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1862 39th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1863 40th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1864 41st Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1865 42nd Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1866 43rd Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1867 44th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1868 45th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1869 46th Annual Exhibition May 1811 June 1811    
1876 47th Annual Exhibition April 24, 1876  June 5, 1876    
1877 48th Annual Exhibition April 22, 1877  June 4, 1877 1877 - 48th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1878 49th Annual Exhibition April 22, 1878  June 1, 1878 1878 - 49th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1878 - 49th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1879 50th Annual Exhibition April 28, 1879  June 2, 1879    
1880 51st Annual Exhibition April 5, 1880  May 30, 1880    
1881 52nd Annual Exhibition April 4, 1881  May 29, 1881    
1882 53rd Annual Exhibition October 24, 1882  December 9, 1882    
1883 54th Annual Exhibition October 29, 1883  December 8, 1883    
1884 55th Annual Exhibition October 30, 1884  December 11, 1884    
1885 56th Annual Exhibition October 29, 1885  December 10, 1885    
1887 57th Annual Exhibition March 10, 1887  April 21, 1887    
1888 58th Annual Exhibition February 16, 1888  March 29, 1888    
1889 59th Annual Exhibition January 24, 1889  March 7, 1889    
1890 60th Annual Exhibition January 30, 1890  March 6, 1890 1890 - 60th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1891 61st Annual Exhibition January 29, 1891  March 6, 1891    
1892 62nd Annual Exhibition January 21, 1892  March 5, 1892 1892 - 62nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1893 63rd Annual Exhibition December 18, 1893  February 24, 1894 1893 - 63rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1893 - 63rd Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1894 64th Annual Exhibition December 17, 1894  February 23, 1895 1894 - 64th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1894 - 64th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1895 65th Annual Exhibition December 23, 1895  February 22, 1896 1895 - 65th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1895 - 65th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1896 66th Annual Exhibition December 21, 1896  February 22, 1897 1896 - 66th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1898 67th Annual Exhibition January 10, 1898  February 22, 1898 1898 - 67th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1898 - 67th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1899 68th Annual Exhibition January 16, 1899  February 25, 1899 1899 - 68th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1899 - 68th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1900 69th Annual Exhibition January 15, 1900 February 24, 1900 1900 - 69th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1900 - 69th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1901 70th Annual Exhibition January 14, 1901 February 23, 1901 1901 - 70th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1901 - 70th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1902 71st Annual Exhibition January 20, 1902 February 23, 1902 1902 - 71st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1902 - 71st Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1903 72nd Annual Exhibition January 19, 1903 February 28, 1903 1903 - 72nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1904 73rd Annual Exhibition January 25, 1904 March 5, 1904 1904 - 73rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1905 100th Annual Exhibition January 23, 1905 March 4, 1905 1905 - 100th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1905 - 100th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1906 101st Annual Exhibition January 22, 1906 March 3, 1906 1906 - 101st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1906 - 101st Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1907 102nd Annual Exhibition January 21, 1907 February 24, 1907 1907 - 102nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1907 - 102nd Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1908 103rd Annual Exhibition February 4,1908  March 24, 1908 1908 - 103rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1908 - 103rd Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1909 104th Annual Exhibition January 31, 1909 March 14, 1909 1909 - 104th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1909 - 104th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1910 105th Annual Exhibition January 23, 1910 March 20, 1910 1910 - 105th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1910 - 105th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1911 106th Annual Exhibition February 5, 1911 March 26, 1911 1911 - 106th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1911 - 106th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1912 107th Annual Exhibition February 4, 1912 March 24, 1912 1912 - 107th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1912 - 107th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1913 108th Annual Exhibition February 9, 1913 March 30, 1913 1913 - 108th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1914 109th Annual Exhibition February 4, 1914 March 29, 1914 1914 - 109th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1915 110th Annual Exhibition February 7, 1915 March 28, 1915 1915 - 110th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1916 111th Annual Exhibition February 6, 1916 March 26, 1916 1916 - 111th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1917 112th Annual Exhibition February 4, 1917 March 25, 1917 1917 - 112th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1918 113th Annual Exhibition February 3, 1918 March 24, 1918 1918 - 113th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1919 114th Annual Exhibition February 9, 1919 March 30, 1919 1919 - 114th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1919 - 114th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1920 115th Annual Exhibition February 8, 1920 March 28, 1920 1920 - 115th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1920 - 115th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1921 116th Annual Exhibition February 6, 1921 March 27, 1921 1921 - 116th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1922 117th Annual Exhibition February 5, 1922 March 26, 1922 1922 - 117th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1923 118th Annual Exhibition February 4, 1923 March 25, 1923 1923 - 118th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1923 - 118th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1924 119th Annual Exhibition February 3, 1924 March 23, 1924 1924 - 119th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1924 - 119th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1925 120th Annual Exhibition February 8, 1925 March 29, 1925 1925 - 120th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1926 121st Annual Exhibition January 31, 1926 March 21, 1926 1926 - 121st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1927 122nd Annual Exhibition January 30, 1927 March 20, 1927 1927 - 122nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1928 123rd Annual Exhibition January 29, 1928 March 18, 1928 1928 - 123rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1929 124th Annual Exhibition January 27, 1929 March 17, 1929 1929 - 124th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1930 125th Annual Exhibition January 26, 1930 March 16, 1930 1930 - 125th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1931 126th Annual Exhibition January 25, 1931 March 15, 1931 1931 - 126th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1931 - 126th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1932 127th Annual Exhibition January 24, 1932 March 13, 1932 1932 - 127th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1933 128th Annual Exhibition January 29, 1933 March 19, 1933 1933 - 128th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1934 129th Annual Exhibition January 28, 1934 February 25, 1934 1934 - 129th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1935 130th Annual Exhibition January 27, 1935 March 3, 1935 1935 - 130th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1936 131st Annual Exhibition January 26, 1936 March 1, 1936 1936 - 131st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1937 132nd Annual Exhibition January 24, 1937 February 28, 1937 1937 - 132nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1938 133rd Annual Exhibition January 30, 1938 March 6, 1938 1938 - 133rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1939 134th Annual Exhibition January 29, 1939 March 5, 1939 1939 - 134th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1939 - 134th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1940 135th Annual Exhibition January 28, 1940 March 3, 1940 1940 - 135th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1940 - 135th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1941 136th Annual Exhibition January 26, 1941 March 2, 1941 1941 - 136th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1941 - 136th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1942 137th Annual Exhibition January 25, 1942 March 1, 1942 1942 - 137th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1942 - 137th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1943 138th Annual Exhibition January 24, 1943 February 28, 1943 1943 - 138th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1943 - 138th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1944 139th Annual Exhibition January 23, 1944 February 27, 1944 1944 - 139th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1944 - 139th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1945 140th Annual Exhibition January 19, 1945 February 25, 1945 1945 - 140th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1945 - 140th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1946 141st Annual Exhibition January 26, 1946 March 3, 1946 1946 - 141st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1947 142nd Annual Exhibition January 26, 1947 March 2, 1947 1947 - 142nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1947 - 142nd Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1948 143rd Annual Exhibition January 25, 1948 February 29, 1948 1948 - 143rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1949 144th Annual Exhibition January 23, 1949 February 27, 1949 1949 - 144th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1950 145th Annual Exhibition January 22, 1950 February 26, 1950 1950 - 145th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1951 146th Annual Exhibition January 21, 1951 February 25, 1951 1951 - 146th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1952 147th Annual Exhibition January 20, 1952 February 24, 1952 1952 - 147th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1953 148th Annual Exhibition January 25, 1953 March 1, 1953 1953 - 148th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1953 - 148th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1954 149th Annual Exhibition January 24, 1954 February 28, 1954 1954 - 149th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1955 150th Annual Exhibition     1955 - 150th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1955 - 150th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1956 151st Annual Exhibition January 22, 1956 February 26, 1956 1956 - 151st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1957 152nd Annual Exhibition     1957 - 152nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1958 153rd Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 26, 1958 February 23, 1958 1958 - 153rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1958 - 153rd Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1959 154th Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1959 - 154th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1960 155th Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 24, 1960 February 28, 1960 1960 - 155th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1961 156th Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1961 - 156th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1962 157th Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 12, 1962 February 25, 1962 1962 - 157th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1962 - 157th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1963 158th Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1963 - 158th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1964 159th Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 25, 1964 March 1, 1964 1964 - 159th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1965 160th Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1965 - 160th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented) 1965 - 160th Annual Exhibition (Installation Views)
1966 161st Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 21, 1966 March 6, 1966 1966 - 161st Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1967 162nd Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1967 - 162nd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1968 163rd Annual Exhibition (alternating year) January 19, 1968 March 3, 1968 1968 - 163rd Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)  
1969 164th Annual Exhibition (alternating year)     1969 - 164th Annual Exhibition (Works Documented)