New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
George Spencer Morris
The Boardwalk at Ventnor
Oil on canvas board, 14 × 10 inches
Signed at lower right: “G. S. Morris”
Exhibition label on verso: “the fellowship of the/pennsylvania academy of the fine arts/9th annual exhibition 1908 [ . . . ]”; (handwritten in ink) “The Boardwalk at Ventnor/George Spencer Morris/575 Stephen Girard Building/Philada”
Label (supplier, printed) on board verso: “russell’s /[ . . . ]/ canvas board /[ . . . ]”

George Spencer Morris was born in the Olney section of Philadelphia and was educated at the Haddonfield Academy in New Jersey, Friends Select School in Philadelphia, and the Westtown Boarding School in Pennsylvania. He studied architecture and drawing at Drexel Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1896 to 1904. Morris and William S. Vaux, Jr., worked together as partners in an architecture firm until 1905, when they began working independently. Morris and Richard Erskine founded Morris and Erskine around 1908, and worked together until the former’s death. Morris joined the T-Square Club in 1890 and the American Institute of Architects in 1910. An avid ornithologist, Morris was one of the founders of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club in 1890 and served as a member of the board of curators at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.1 Morris was also an amateur artist who played an active role in the Philadelphia Sketch Club. He served as the group’s vice president from 1907 to 1910 and from 1913 to 1921 and was on its board of directors from 1902 to 1906 and 1910 to 1912. Morris died in Olney.

Ventnor City was a popular resort on the Atlantic Ocean, located two miles below Atlantic City and incorporated as a city in 1903. An early history of the area notes that “The various amusements and diversions of Atlantic City are easily accessible by train, drive or beach, while freedom from noise and perfect rest are assured by its suburban location. A large and thoroughly appointed hotel is open for guests.”2

The original label attached to the reverse of The Boardwalk at Ventnor indicates that it was included in the Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1908. The fellowship had been founded by the painter Robert W. Vonnoh (1858–1933) in 1897 as a means to promote a fraternal spirit among former and present students of the academy, who were all eligible for membership. The annual members’ juried exhibition was the group’s major event.3


1. For biographical information on Morris, see Yearbook of the Philadelphia Sketch Club (Philadelphia, 1918), pp. 13–16, 40, and 43; Obituary, American Institute of Architects Journal, vol. 10 (July 1922), p. 235; and Bruce H. Bentzman, “What’s That? George Spencer Morris, 1867–1922,” The Philadelphia Sketch Club Portfolio (June 2002), p. 3.

2. Alfred M. Heston, Absegami: Annals of Eyren Haven and Atlantic City, 1609 to 1904 (Camden, N.J.: Sinnickson and Sons Co., 1904), p. 384.

3. See The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: The Unbroken Line, 1897–1997 [exh. cat.] (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1997).

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