Palmer Museum of Art Showcases the Exuberant Mid-20th Century Art of Lucille Corcos

  • UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania
  • /
  • March 25, 2021

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Lucille Corcos, Everybody’s Downtown, 1948, tempera on board, 14-1/2 x 11-1/8 inches. Collection of David and Susan Werner

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State now presents The Wit and Whimsy of Lucille Corcos, an exhibition featuring the playful work of mid-twentieth-century artist and prolific illustrator Lucille Corcos (1908–1973). Organized by the Palmer Museum, the exhibition is the first devoted to Corcos in more than twenty-two years and her first solo museum exhibition ever.

“This vibrant exhibition shines the light on a little studied, but influential, figure in the development of the modernist primitivist tradition in American art,” said Erin M. Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “It provides a rare opportunity to see a broad range of works by an American woman artist who should be much better known.”

Lucille Corcos, At Grand Central Galleries, New York, 1940, 17-1/2 x 13-1/2 inches, watercolor and gouache on paper. Collection of David and Susan Werner

Lucille Corcos was born and raised in New York City and studied at the Art Students League in the late 1920s. Following her breakthrough cover for the January 1931 issue of Vanity Fair, her work became highly sought after by well-known magazines of the day, including Fortune, Life, and Vogue. In 1941, she and her family moved to upstate New York. She continued to excel in commercial illustration work and exhibited regularly at art galleries and museums, including participating almost annually in group shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the years between 1936 and 1954.

The Wit and Whimsy of Lucille Corcos examines three pivotal decades of Corcos’s career through more than two dozen of 
her most significant tempera and watercolor paintings. Her small-scale, almost miniature, paintings in a semi-naïve style 
were lauded for their exactness in detail, multitude of figures, and unique aerial perspective. Corcos pioneered a distinctive 
cutaway technique that revealed the interiors of buildings, as if granting the observer the ability to see clear through solid 
walls. The exhibition brings together works recently acquired by the Palmer Museum and loans from several museums and
private collections. 

“Lucille Corcos, both in her life and in her work, had a flair for navigating different milieus—whether it was career ambitions and domestic demands or big-city spectacles and small-town gatherings,” said Adam Thomas, curator of American art at the Palmer Museum. “Her brightly colored and densely packed scenes often seem to straddle the line between exuberant celebrations and mischievous send-ups of social situations.”

The exhibition will be on view at the Palmer Museum of Art through May 9. For those who want to learn more about the artist, a virtual museum conversation on Corcos’s life and art led by curator Adam Thomas will take place on Thursday, April 8, at 4:00 p.m. Participants can register via the Palmer website. Registration link:

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