Woodmere Art Museum Announces “Hearing the Brush: the Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer”

Visual Arts

Woodmere’s exhibition, Hearing the Brush, explores the painting and poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer

Image: Suns of Buffalo Run, c. 1959, by Warren Rohrer (Museum purchase, 2017).
PHILADELPHIA (April 4, 2022) — Opening April 9, 2022, Woodmere Art Museum’s Hearing the Brush: the Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer, will explore the creative relationship between Warren and Jane Rohrer– husband and wife, painter and poet respectively– who inspired one another and mutually sustained each other’s artistic practice. Both artists drew inspiration from a shared Mennonite background and from the textures, colors, and rhythms of central Pennsylvania’s farms and verdant landscapes.

As painter and poet, they responded in different ways to events in their lives and environment, yet they remained in constant conversation through their long marriage. In displaying Jane’s poems alongside Warren’s paintings, their artistic conversations unfold. Warren often consulted Jane in choosing the titles of his paintings, which echo the themes of some of her poems. Visitors will also enjoy finding other more allusive connections between words and paint. Both the paintings and the poetry underpin the significance and enduring influence of the couple’s shared appreciation of the simple beauty of the environment around us.

Hearing the Brush: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer was organized in collaboration with Penn State University as a companion to an exhibition at the University’s Palmer Museum of Art, Field Language: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer, on view in 2021. Woodmere’s exhibition, which is a more intimate presentation of the Rohrers’ work, was organized in conversation with Penn State University professors Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Christopher Reed, who are deeply immersed in the creativity of both artists.

Image: Orchard, date unknown, by Warren Rohrer (Gift of Harvey S. Shipley Miller in memory of Betty E. Miller, 2015).
Hearing the Brush: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer will be on view at Woodmere Art Museum from April 9 to July 10, 2022. The exhibition will contain approximately 20 pairs of paintings and poems. A catalogue produced by the Palmer Museum of Art and Penn State University Press features essays by artists, poets, and historians, as well as pairings of paintings and poems. One essay, written by Bill R. Valerio, Woodmere’s CEO & Director, explores the history of the Lower Cogslea studio, a Mount Airy home with a rich history in the life of Warren Rohrer as well as acclaimed artist Violet Oakley. The catalogue will be available for purchase in the Woodmere Art Museum store.

Language and Land is a video created to accompany the exhibition at Woodmere Art Museum and the Palmer Museum of Art. To watch the video, click here.

Image: Green Stance, 1984, by Warren Rohrer (Gift of Jack R. Bershad, 1996).

Warren Rohrer was born in 1927 in Smoketown, Pennsylvania, near Lancaster, where he was raised by devout Mennonite farmers. During his childhood, Warren spent his days maintaining his family’s land and quickly fell in love with the beauty of his surrounding rural landscape. Ultimately, he strayed from conventional professional paths of becoming a farmer or a minister when he began to pursue art and art education.

He attended Eastern Mennonite College as a young man and graduated with a degree in Bible Studies, then went on to take art courses at Madison College (now James Madison University). In the summers he enjoyed courses under the genius of Hobson Pittman, a Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts instructor who ran a program at Pennsylvania State College. After only a few years of painting, one of Warren Rohrer’s works was chosen to be included in the 1955 Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.

In 1961, Warren moved with his wife Jane and their young sons to a farm in Christiana, Pennsylvania, where he worked out of a barn. The landscape of his youth became his subject over the course of the next two decades of art-making. During a trip to Europe in 1972, he became inspired by seeing the works of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Upon his return to the United States, he painted in an exclusively square format. In 1984, Warren established a new workplace in Chestnut Hill. He moved his studio into Violet Oakley’s former studio known as Lower Cogslea, a fantastic space overlooking the Cresheim Creek. In Philadelphia, Warren taught and exhibited extensively. He was a valued member of the faculty at the Philadelphia College of the Arts, now the University of the Arts, for nearly two decades.

Warren Rohrer’s work has been featured in countless exhibitions in recent years, including those held at the Locks Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and more.

Jane Turner Rohrer (American, b. 1928) was born in Broadway, Virginia. She grew up on a poultry and horse farm located in the Shenandoah Valley and attended Eastern Mennonite College, a private university in Harrisonburg, Virginia. There, she met Warren, and the two married in 1948. From the 1970s on, Jane engaged seriously with poetry, studying independently, auditing university courses, and taking part in writers’ workshops in Lancaster. For nearly three decades, her work appeared periodically in The American Poetry Review. Jane worked in relative obscurity until the years after her husband’s death. She published her first book of poems in 2022, Life After Death, which was published by Sheep Meadow Press. A second collection, Acquiring Land: Late Poems, was published in the DreamSeeker Poetry Series in early 2020 in coordination with the Field Language exhibition at Penn State University. Her poetry is known for its observational qualities, a sense of sound, and a deeply felt emotional core.


About Woodmere Art Museum
Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Woodmere offers a unique museum experience that centers on the art and artists of Philadelphia. Vibrant exhibitions explore the achievements and social ideas of Philadelphia’s artists in the broader context of American art; Woodmere prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its collecting, programming, and admission policies. Throughout the year, Woodmere offers family events, tours, gallery talks, lectures, panel discussions, studio art classes, film, and music performances. Woodmere brings the experience of art and nature together with a growing collection of sculpture installations across our six green acres.

The core of Woodmere’s collection is the gift of Charles Knox Smith (1845 – 1916). Born of modest means, Smith built his fortune in the mining industry, and he became a city leader and passionate art collector. In 1898, he purchased the Woodmere estate with the grand ambition of creating a museum of the fine arts immersed in the green beauty of Chestnut Hill. He expanded and transformed his home into a showcase for his art collection as a gift to the people of Philadelphia. Smith focused much of his collecting on Philadelphia’s artists, but his Hudson River paintings remain on view as the best in Philadelphia to this day. For almost forty years up to 1978, the artist Edith Emerson was Woodmere’s director, and she established a focus on women artists, especially collecting those in the circle of her life partner, Violet Oakley.

Woodmere is located at 9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA, 19118. Open to the public Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Admission is $10; FREE on Sunday. For more information: woodmereartmuseum.org.

Note to Editors & Writers:
● Woodmere offers free admission on Sundays.
● There will be an opening reception at Woodmere Art Museum on Saturday, April 9 from 1-3 pm.
● The Locks Gallery will also be exhibiting a collection of Warren Rohrer’s work on view from April 1 – May 14, 2022. There will be an opening reception on Friday, April 1, from 5 – 7 pm.

Media Contact
For additional information, images, or to request an interview please contact:
Andrea Bruce,
Blue Medium