Art as process: Swans


In December of 1931, Gest showed “Black Swans” at the Plastic Club show of watercolors, miniatures, and crafts. The Philadelphia Inquirer critic wrote of it, “there is a sort of social smartness, so to speak,” to Gest’s “panel decoration of black swans against a backing of silver leaf.”

Almost two decades after she exhibited “Black Swans,” the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts asked Gest, a Fellow of the Academy, to be a guest artist. Of her exhibit, the Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer wrote:

“The current guest artist in Everyman’s Gallery at the Alliance is Margaret Gest, a well-known Philadelphia modernist. One of her walls is called “The Evolution of a Picture,” and here Miss Gest explains in words and in preparatory sketches, her method of procedure in fashioning her strongly individual paintings. She emphasizes the point that there are as many approaches to art as there are painters and pictures.”
April, 3, 1949, Philadelphia Inquirer

While it is unclear what sketches she used, they may very well have been from “Black Swans,” for dozens of sketches of swans are extant in the collection today. The sketches reveal Gest’s explorations of fine and gross detail, shading and depth, proportion – and also some very cute goslings.