Fanny 1943 by Daniel Garber

Painter Daniel Garber, Fanny, and Me. What May Happen When Exposing Children to the Arts?

By Amy Masgay

Pennsylvania Impressionist painter Daniel Garber (1880-1958) is a staple of the Bucks County art scene. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before settling at his home in Upper Bucks County and becoming a founding member of the New Hope Artist Colony, along with Robert Spencer, William Lathrop, Charles Rosen, Morgan Colt, and Rae Sloan Bredin. Garber’s work is distinctive in its blending of realism and mysticism, his Impressionist style continuing to capture the imagination of the public to this day.

Of course, none of that was of any interest to me when I was a little girl being dragged to an exhibit at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania because my older brother’s class project was on display. I was no more than five or six years old, forced into a pink dress and itchy, white stockings, and fully prepared to be bored and grumpy for the entire evening.

Then I saw her, and I actually stopped dead in my tracks. Amid all the landscapes and nature scenes that seemed to blur together in an indistinct mass, there was someone who looked like me, another little girl in another pink dress. I remember asking my mother a dozen questions about the girl in the picture.

“Where are her shoes?”


            “Why isn’t she outside playing with her friends?”


            “What is she looking at outside the window?”


            “What book was she reading on the bench?”


            “Who did her hair in the braid, or did she do it herself?”


            “Who taught her how to braid her hair?”

My mother is a patient woman, but eventually she started encouraging me to make up my own answers to these endless questions, which I did for the rest of the night. My parents, who had to drag me to the museum in the first place, could not drag me away from the painting once I’d found it.

Above Left: Writer Amy Masgay when she first met “Fanny 1943” by Daniel Garber, Juxtaposed with Fanny at the James A. Michener Art Gallery current day.

I stayed on the bench in front of that painting, suddenly very content, until it was time to leave, only distracted once when a reporter came up to my mother and asked if she could take my picture with the portrait because, as she said, she had never seen a child so engrossed in a piece of art before. Thank goodness she did, because if it wasn’t for that picture, I might not have any significant memory of that evening at all.

Of all the questions I had about the girl in the painting, there was at least one we were able to answer for sure. Her name was Fanny. She was the granddaughter of the artist, Daniel Garber, and her portrait is called Fanny, 1943.

Daniel Garber is arguably the most well-known artist from the New Hope Group today and his paintings are beloved by visitors to the Michener,” shared Dr. Laura Turner Igoe, Chief Curator at the Michener Art Museum. Currently on loan to the Michener from a private collection, Fanny is just one case of Garber’s prolific work where he deviated from the popular landscapes of the time.

“Fanny, a large-scale, yet intimate portrait of his granddaughter, particularly showcases his skill in capturing the play of light across the canvas. Posed on the porch of the artist’s home at Cuttalossa, Fanny appears barefoot, her open book and shawl briefly abandoned in the bench. Garber wrote that Fanny, ‘grows more and more charming and dear. I’m afraid if I fail on this composition, it will hurt.’”

Learning that Garber once questioned his ability to do right by Fanny makes her all the more endearing to me because I know for at least one little girl, she was anything but a failure. Looming large at 60 inches by 49 inches, this single portrait in oil was enough for one child with no prior interest in art to remain transfixed for an entire evening.


Although I had no way of knowing it at the time, meeting Fanny turned out to be the catalyst for my interest in fine art. Since then, my taste has developed, I’ve had the opportunity to study art history in London, England, and I’ve found even more pieces that connect with my heart in some way or another.


Even still, to this day, a reproduction of Fanny, 1943 hangs in my home. I might not see myself so much in that little girl in the pink dress anymore, but at least I can still see her every day and remember how I once did.


To think that if it wasn’t for my brother’s school exhibit, or the persistence of my parents hauling me to that museum more than twenty years ago, I might never have met Fanny, or heard of Daniel Garber, or had any interest in art at all. All these years later, I’m grateful for what I now recognize as a formative experience, even if I did have to wear the itchy tights.

Amy Masgay is a contributor to Arts News Now, and since her experience with “Fanny”, her career path has always found intersections with all forms of art.

To learn more about Artist history on Daniel Garber, visit:

Currently on exhibition
at the James A. Michener Art Museum is “Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoesnow through January 15, 2023.

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