TRAPPE PA – Self-taught folk artist David Ellinger grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Trappe and began creating botanical drawings in 1927, when he was only 14 years old. Now Ellinger, who died in 2003, is the subject of an extensive art exhibit in what was once his hometown.
Titled “Native Son: The Life and Art of David Ellinger,” the exhibit is open at the Center for Pennsylvania German Studies in the Dewees Tavern, 301 W. Main St. It’s described as “a significant retrospective exhibition presenting nearly 100 works” of Ellinger’s art.
Historic Trappe, the non-profit organization that promotes the borough’s people, places, and events – and roles they have played in state and national history – is hosting the exhibit. It is included as a part of the paid admission to tours of its galleries and buildings. Tours are held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
The show itself has generated interest in media outlets covering the art business. The exhibit and its curator, Historic Trappe executive director Lisa Minardi, were subjects of an October 2023 article published by Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
Ellinger joined the federal Works Progress Administration in 1935 to contribute to the Index of American Design project. His artistic prowess quickly gained recognition, Historic Trappe observes, leading Ellinger to be featured in a series of solo exhibitions that appeared in Philadelphia, New York, and other prominent art hubs during the mid-1940s.
Ellinger’s paintings depicted picturesque scenes of Pennsylvania German barns, country auctions, Amish family farms, and other rustic vistas, according to Historic Trappe’s website. They are said to have “played a pivotal role in kindling widespread fascination with Pennsylvania German culture during the latter half of the 20th century.”
An audience captivated by folk art
“His work resonated deeply with an audience captivated by folk art and nostalgic reverence for an agricultural past,” it added. “Characterized by vibrant colors and adorned with Pennsylvania German motifs, including birds, tulips, and hearts, Ellinger’s art continues to captivate collectors of folk art and Americana.”
MutualArt, a source for information on artworks and auction pricing, states that Ellinger artworks have been sold at auction hundreds of times. Depending on size and medium of the pieces, some have commanded prices of up to several thousands of dollars. Pieces sold as recently as October 2023 reportedly have attracted sums well above mid-estimates, it reported.
The show’s highlights, Historic Trappe said, include:
- The aforementioned botanical drawings from 1927;
- Impressionist landscapes and still-lifes from the 1930s and ’40s;
- River Brethren, a stark modernist rendering of a local meetinghouse from 1935;
- Garden Path, circa 1945, one of Ellinger’s most extensive and detailed creations;
- Flowers I Grew, a still life painted shortly after Ellinger’s first home purchase in 1945;
- Fertile Moon, circa 1950, a modernist portrayal of a Pennsylvania German farm;
- Cornucopia, 1958, one of Ellinger’s earliest theorem paintings; and
- Down Loudle Creek Way, circa 1967, which depicts a wintry local farmstead scene.
The organization also is making a full-color, 132-page exhibit catalog written by Minardi available for $30.
Dewees Tavern photos by Travels With The Post
Cover of the David Ellinger exhibit catalog from the Historic Trappe Facebook page
- Exhibit: Native Son: The Life & Art of David Ellinger, (Saturdays through July 28) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., ticketed, his paintings reportedly “played a pivotal role in kindling widespread fascination with Pennsylvania German culture during the latter half of the 20th century;” nearly 100 works on display, at the Center for Pennsylvania German Studies in the Dewees Tavern, 301 W. Main St., Trappe PA
- Exhibit: Native Son: The Life & Art of David Ellinger, (Sundays through July 28) from noon to 4 p.m., ticketed, Ellinger’s paintings reportedly “played a pivotal role in kindling widespread fascination with Pennsylvania German culture during the latter half of the 20th century;” nearly 100 works on display, at the Center for Pennsylvania German Studies in the Dewees Tavern, 301 W. Main St., Trappe PA