Bucks County Herald

Doylestown Historical Society exhibits Calvert retrospective


A flag-raising ceremony at Doylestown Public School painted by Walter Calvert from an Intelligencer photograph.

Milton Kenin was combing through some old Central Bucks High School yearbooks when he saw a photograph of a young woman pointing at a painting of a flag-raising at the old Doylestown Public School.

Intrigued, the senior archivist for the Doylestown Historical Society wanted to know more about the artist who had created the painting. His research led him to the girl in the photograph – Judy Calvert Yerkes, daughter of the artist Walter “Cal” Calvert (1901-1960) – and a treasure-trove of Calvert’s work.

Despite a successful career as an illustrator and painter, whose work appeared on countless magazine covers, the Doylestown artist had never had an exhibition of his own – until now.

“Walter Calvert: A Retrospective” opens Saturday at the Doylestown Historical Society barn at 56 S. Main St., Doylestown, with a private reception, followed by a free exhibition for the public, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, June 9, 16, 23 and 30.

The exhibition, which Yerkes will attend, includes the painting, created in 1955, based on a 1913 photograph from The Intelligencer, and more than 40 other drawings and paintings, as well as many magazine covers and illustrations.

Yerkes said her father wasn’t recognized for his work because much of it was commercial – for advertising. “It didn’t bother him one bit,” she said. “It bothered my mother (Eleanore),” especially after he died.

“He didn’t really want to be recognized. For years, he didn’t even sign his name to his work.”
Born in Williamsport, Calvert attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in the 1930s.

He sketched scenes from plays for The Philadelphia Inquirer, when cameras weren’t allowed in theaters, and created covers for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentlemen, Bucks County Traveler, and the Farm Journal.

Calvert’s advertisement illustrations appeared in campaigns for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Bell Telephone and the Philadelphia Electric Company.

“He was deliberate. He would stay awake almost every night into the wee hours working in his studio,” his daughter said.

After working for others, Calvert worked as a freelance artist, with a home studio, beginning around 1940, first in Buckingham, then Gardenville and then Doylestown. Most of his work was done in acrylics, but a lot was pen and ink or scratchboard, for which he received awards, she said.

His friends included local artists George Sotter, Edward Redfield, Walter Baum and Fern Coppedge. “He and George Sotter were big buddies,” Yerkes said.

Yerkes said she remembers her father, who died suddenly of a heart attack, as “a gentle, quiet man with a wonderful sense of humor.”

For someone who died at age 59, she said, “He accomplished a great deal of work, an incredible amount.”

Kenin said he and others from the historical society were “blown away” by what Yerkes had to show them when he contacted her after seeing her photograph in the yearbook, to see if she had any photographs of her father’s work.

“From a photo of a painting in a yearbook, it came to this,” he said of the exhibition.
“It’s been fun putting it all together,” Yerkes said. “It really has.”



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