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"I found that they (people) interfered with my designs, and I thought that if I didn't like people in my paintings, nobody else would either."
-Katharine Steele Renninger, 1984
Painter Katharine Steele Renninger was interested in objects: their structure, forms, and patterns. The objects tended to be common, such as egg beaters, baby carriages, orange crates, or gingerbread molding on a Victorian house. Often the groupings created abstract patterns using the themes of repetition and the effects of light and shadow.
Renninger worked almost exclusively in casein, a quick-drying milk-based medium that allowed her to depict intricate detail. Casein remained Renninger's exclusive medium for over forty years, helping to define her style. Her work can be compared with several important American realist painters including Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper and with trompe l'oeil painters John Haberle and John Peto.
She was an active supporter of the arts in Bucks County. She had a solo exhibition at the William Penn Museum in Harrisburg in 1975 and was honored as Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist award the same year. She was awarded numerous prizes including Purchase Prizes at the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1978) and at the Woodmere Art Museum (1968); as well as four prizes from the National Society of Painters in Casein. Renninger was honored by a retrospective exhibition at the Michener Art Museum in 1995.
In 2016, the exhibition, Katharine Steele Renninger: Craft, Commitment, Community opened at the Michener Art Museum to highlight the 2008 gift by Renninger's estate to the Museum, including a treasure trove of early sketch books, scrapbooks, and early travel studies that trace her artistic and professional development.
Kay Renninger, image courtesy of the artist.
Education and Training
Moore College of Art and Design, BFA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1946
Teachers and Influences
Arthur Meltzer and Paulette Van Roekens were important teachers at Moore College of Art and Design.
She was influenced by photography and by Presicionist painter and photographer Charles Sheeler, as well as painters Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, and other American realists.
Connection to Bucks County
Katharine Steele Renninger spent the majority of her life in Bucks County. She was born in Jenkintown, and moved with her family to a farm in Feasterville in 1935. Katharine Steele became friends with neighbors Paulette Van Roekens and Arthur Meltzer, an artist-couple. They encouraged her to join their summer classes in painting and later to attend Moore College of Art where they were her teachers.
After marrying John Renninger in 1951, the family lived for a year in Caracas, Venezuela, where three of her paintings were accepted to juried exhibitions at the Museo de las Bellas Artes. Returning to Bucks County in 1955, the family moved to Newtown where Renninger lived until her death.
Renninger has held numerous exhibitions locally, including at Phillips' Mill in New Hope and the Coryell Gallery in Lambertville. She had a retrospective exhibition at the Michener Art Museum in 1995.
She was involved in many Bucks County art organizations, including the former Bucks County Council on the Arts, and was a member of the Michener Art Museum Board of Trustees.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Ranulph Bye, George Antonisen, Charles Wells, Selma Bortner, Denver Lindley, Arthur Meltzer, Paulette Van Roekens, William A. Smith, and many others.
Major Solo Exhibitions
Eggleston Gallery, New York, New York, 1964
Selected Artists Galleries, New York, New York, 1968
The Mill, Carversville, Pennsylvania, 1970
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1970
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, 1971
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1972
Berresford Gallery, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, 1972
George School, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 1973
Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1975
Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1976
William Penn Museum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1977
Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, 1980
Kemerer Museum, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1982
Pennswood Village, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 1982, 1991
Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey, 1985
The Art Gallery at Six Deering Street, Portland, Maine, 1987
Sunset Hill Fine Arts Gallery, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1987
Washington County Museum, Hagerstown, Maryland, 1988
Bargeron Gallery, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, 1988
Nassau Club, Princeton, New Jersey, 1989, 1990
Gleason Gallery, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 1993
Katharine Steele Renninger: A Retrospective, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1995
Katharine Steele Renninger: Craft, Commitment, Community, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2016
Major Group Exhibitions
Participated in more than 50 group exhibitions including:
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1946, 1968, 1970, 1971,1981, 1987, 1990, 1994
Museo de las Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela, 1955
Phillips Mill Annual Juried Exhibition, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1960, 1964, 1966, 1968,1974,1977,1981,1988 on
Philadelphia Women in the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1962-1968
National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1969, 1974, 1975
American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, New York, 1975,1978
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1978, 1979
New American Still Life, Westmoreland Museum, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, 1979
Flashing Oars - Rowing on the Schuykill, Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1985
Women's History Month Exhibition, Plastic Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1985
Woman Painters in Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania, 1987
Coryell Gallery, Lambertville, New Jersey, 1982, 1985 on
Sports in Art, The Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1990
The Compelling Image: Paintings by Tom Chesar and Katharine Steel Renninger, Gallery of Fine Art, Newtown, Pennsylvnia, April 2004
Michener Art Museum
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Faculty, Moore College of Art and Design, Instructor of Freehand Drawing, 1950-1954
Chairman, Bucks County Council on the Arts, 1975-1980
Community Arts Panel, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, 1979-1982
Elected to Board of Directors, National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, 1994
Board of Trustees, Michener Art Museum
Won more than 30 prizes and awards including
John Frederick Lewis European Traveling Fellowship, Moore College of Art, 1946
Prize, Phillips' Mill Annual Art Exhibition, 1966,1968,1974,1981,1989
Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Committee, 1977
Childe Hassam Fund Purchase Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1978
Salmagundi Award, Allied Artists of America, 1981
Shiva Award, National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, 1982
Affiliations and Memberships
Artists' Equity, Philadelphia Chapter
Allied Artists of America
Member, National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic 1969; elected to Board of Directors, 1994
Community Arts Panel, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, 1979-1982
Philadelphia Art Alliance
Philadelphia Watercolor Club
Phillips' Mill Community Association