Woodmere Art Museum has brought another forgotten Philadelphia artist out of history’s back closet, to her benefit and ours.
If you haven’t heard of Ethel V. Ashton (1896-1975), the exhibition’s title, “Private Artist/Public Life,” explains why.
Ashton was a fixture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she was active for years in the Fellowship organization, which supports PAFA students and artists. She also was the school’s librarian from 1957 until the early 1970s.
She was much less well known as an artist. She participated in Fellowship exhibitions and in occasional gallery shows locally, but mainly she kept her work to herself.
This is odd in a way, because the Woodmere show reveals her to have been a talented professional who had an especially keen facility for piquant social realism of a type common during the 1930s and ’40s.
Ashton has one other claim to fame. She was a friend