A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans & the Art of Everyday Life

Religious text Pennsylvania german

March 1, 2015–January 3, 2016

Drawing of two parrots with yellow and red flowersThis comprehensive exhibition explores the unique world of the Pennsylvania Germans and their colorful folk art, including decorated manuscripts (fraktur), textiles, furniture, metalwork, and pottery. Embellished with hearts, flowers, birds, and other traditional motifs, these objects reveal a love of color, design, and whimsy. Most are functional, but others were made “just for nice” and attest to the Pennsylvania Germans’ penchant for decorating virtually everything—from a tiny pincushion to the side of a barn.


A Colorful Folk sheds new light on Pennsylvania German folk art and presents more than 125 objects—many never before exhibited or published. Highlights include rare and important examples of fraktur, ranging from elaborate birth and baptismal certificates (made primarily by members of the German Lutheran and Reformed faiths) to an extraordinary religious text made by Mennonite schoolmaster Andreas Kolb. A painted chest decorated in 1783 by fraktur artist Henrich Otto with floral motifs and a pair of camels will also be displayed. Textiles are also prominently featured, including dazzling examples of needlework, quilted objects, and clothing such as an embroidered wedding handkerchief and apron from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The tools and techniques used by fraktur artists will also be explored in addition to issues of authenticity, forgery, and revivals.


Most objects in the exhibition are drawn from Winterthur’s permanent collection, which now includes the fraktur and textile collection of the late Pastor Frederick S. Weiser, a legendary scholar and collector of Pennsylvania German folk art. More than a dozen private collectors and institutions also loaned important works of art.


An illustrated, 64-page catalogue will accompany the exhibition, presenting new scholarship and many never-before-published objects. Click here for a sample of the booklet. To purchase the booklet, visit the online book store.


Major support for A Colorful Folk is provided by John and Marjorie McGraw, with additional support from the American Folk Art Society and Dolores and Stephen Smith.

Related exhibitions were on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from February 1–April 26, 2015 and the Free Library of Philadelphia from March 2–July 16, 2015.


*Image at top: Religious text, signed by Andreas Kolb, probably Montgomery County, PA, ca. 1785. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2013.31.71

All Rights Reserved