Kate Kern Mundie captures Philadelphia’s offbeat splendor in traditional landscape paintings. In one piece, she depicts a foggy, gray sky over Philadelphia’s City Hall with pleasing, chunky brushstrokes. Another painting reveals the stark difference between the tranquil Schuylkill River and the harsh highway circling around it.
Mundie is especially interested in unexpected places of beauty in the city. “You’ll be walking past Schuylkill River, with all the highways and bridges, and you’ll think, ‘Ugh, gross. It’s all industrial,’” she says. “And then something about it is beautiful. There’s a beautiful shape or beautiful colors.”
Mundie, a Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts graduate, takes a cue from the Ashcan School painters. The early-20th-century artists highlighted the aesthetics of working-class neighborhoods and urban streets. Many of them also attended Mundie’s alma mater, but that isn’t why she looks to them for inspiration.
“I was drawn to it because of their bold contrast between light and dark colors,” she says.
Like Mundie, some Ashcan artists were also landscape painters in urban settings. That isn’t always an easy task. “There are times when we’ll go on vacation in New England, and I’ll think about how nice it is to just walk out the door and paint,” says Mundie. “But the city’s nice, too. There’s a lot of beauty here that we miss.”