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Florence Foerderer Tonner Collection

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The Florence Foerderer Tonner Print Collection
Martin Art Gallery
Muhlenberg College

Image: Joseph Pennell (American, 1857 – 1926)
          Public Buildings, Philadelphia, 1881
          Etching/aquatint. Plate destroyed.

Florence Foerderer Tonner (1883 – 1972) and her husband William made her childhood home, Glen Foerd on the Delaware, their family residence in 1934 after the death of Florence’s mother. Glen Foerd, located in the Torresdale section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was cherished by Florence. She not only maintained the entire estate in the elegant style of the late 19th-century but also added significantly to the art collection and gallery that her parents had started in their home.

After William’s death in 1948, Florence continued to live at Glen Foerd. She was active in the cultural and social affairs of Philadelphia and remained an avid art collector. Florence had a particularly fruitful relationship with The Print Club of Philadelphia. Her print collection encompassed works from the early-16th century through the mid-1950s. She also focused on prints made by Pennsylvania artists or on works that depicted state, or regional, subjects.

During the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the American publishing industry produced countless magazines, periodicals and books. To enhance those texts, a robust demand for illustrative print-making arose and America’s Golden Age of Illustration was born. This growing market was perfectly timed just as Philadelphia-born artist Joseph Pennell (1857 – 1926) was beginning his long and prolific career. After studying at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, he formally began his life’s work in 1881 when Scribner’s Monthly purchased his drawings of south Philadelphia. Pennell’s etching/aquatint Public Buildings, Philadelphia, 1881 is from that early body of work.

His training, talent, and curiosity to experiment with graphic techniques fueled his success. For many years Pennell and his wife Elizabeth lived and worked in London and traveled about Europe. Husband and wife often collaborated in making books. Upon returning to the United States in 1917, Pennell continued making prints and taught at the Art Students’ League in New York City. More than 70 of his etchings and lithographs, depicting a variety of American and European subjects, are represented in the College’s Tonner Print Collection.

Prior to her death in 1972, Mrs. Tonner bequeathed her property to the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). By the mid-1980s, the estate had become a financial burden and the LCA followed her stipulation to pass it to the care of the local community. In 1986, due to its affiliation with the LCA, Muhlenberg College acquired a selection of Mrs. Tonner’s collection—nearly 1,700 works on paper— as well as many books, and several paintings. The Tonner Collection has served as an invaluable educational resource for the Muhlenberg community. Modern information technology now makes it available to a much broader audience. A circumstance, we believe, of which Mrs. Tonner would greatly approve.

All art images are the property of Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania. Any reproduction or distribution of this material without the expressed, written consent of the Martin Art Gallery is prohibited and a violation of federal law. All rights reserved.


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