Tour: Pennsylvania German Folk Art from the Index of American Design
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Pennsylvania German art is a distinctive folk style transplanted by European immigrants who settled in southeastern Pennsylvania. Characterized by the bold use of color and motifs that emphasize birds, flowers, and elaborate decoration, Pennsylvania German art was nurtured on the isolated farms where those settlers made their homes. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, immigrants from Switzerland, the Palatinate, and the Upper Rhine regions of Germany arrived in Pennsylvania. For the most part, they were peasants, small farmers, and artisans. The Pennsylvania Germans were industrious people; they cleared the heavily wooded lands and tilled the soil to establish a new life in America. Agriculture was the major industry, but as society became more firmly rooted, farmer-craftsmen turned some of their energies to producing and decorating the many articles of daily life. By isolating themselves from outside influences, the Pennsylvania Germans were not assimilated into the mainstream of American culture until this century. Thus, for over two hundred years, Pennsylvania German art flourished to become an important element of the American folk art tradition.