Libby Newman, distinguished artist and respected leader in the arts community passed away on Tuesday August 8, 2023. She was 100 years old. Born in Rockland Delaware, she was one of three daughters of Dora Horowitz and Hyman Goldberg. There, she and her sisters Beatrice and Debbie endured the hardships of primitive living conditions and the prejudices of that time and place. However the natural environment and rural countryside fed and sustained her as her artistic abilities developed. While her early work was in textiles and then painting, her primary medium soon became woodcuts. She studied with famed local Philadelphia artist Sam Feinstein where she developed a palate of explosive color. Her work would later become more subtle with curves and circles suggesting the natural world of her childhood with its hills, waves, sun, moon and earth. Her artist’s statement from a 2001 interview sponsored by the University of the Arts is very informative:
“Born in the country, a scenic but isolated area along the Brandywine River, I learned early in my life to reach inward and to reflect on the beauty of nature around me. In this sense my work is autobiographical, expressing references to my past and present environments. The look and sound of the ocean, the wetlands, the dance of the trees, the grace of falling leaves, rain, lightning, thaw, and subterranean forces direct my work with infinite motivation….”
Libby received her BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia Pa. Her art is in the collections of over 32 museums and libraries around the world including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, The National Museum of Belgrade, Serbia, Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aries, Argentina, Tianjin Fine Arts College, Tianjin China, University City Science Center Philadelphia, PA, Smith Kline Beckman Corporation, Philadelphia, PA, Free Library of Philadelphia, Annenberg Rare Books and Manuscript Library and the University of Pennsylvania. Represented locally by the Mangel Gallery, she also exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad.
Libby was an avid supporter and mentor of young artists, especially those from diverse backgrounds, as well as being an outspoken proponent of artist’s rights. Libby served as president of Artists Equity and was the curator of exhibitions at the Esther Kline Gallery of the University City Science Center where she opened the gallery to previously un-exhibited young African-American artists. She also served as co-curator of Outdoor Sculpture Exhibitions at the home of then Governor Dick Thornburg in Harrisburg PA and a Visual Arts Panelist of the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Two accomplishments of which she was very proud were her exhibitions of Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller at the Kline Gallery and her own 1989 exhibit at Tianjin Art College in Tianjin China, a port city of Beijing. Her exhibition and trip, hailed in China as a “bridge between the cultures of the East and the West,” were cut short as the violent crackdown upon students peacefully protesting in Tiananmen Square erupted.
During her lifetime Libby was the recipient of numerous honors, awards and citations including the Gold Medal Award from Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey and was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. She received the Percy Owens Award by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts recognizing her support and mentorship of other artists. Both Mayors John Street and Ed Rendell bestowed citations of merit for her contributions to the arts community of Philadelphia.
As a young woman Libby married Dr. Samuel C. Newman, with whom she had two children, Andrea Newman Orsher (Robert) and Don Newman. After Sam died in 1985, she married Herman Feldman and was welcomed into a beautiful family including three sons, Alan, Arthur and Gary and their wives Barbara, Debbie and Jan. Libby’s heart was overflowing with love and pride for her nine grandchildren: James Orsher (Kerstin Fuchs), Rebecca Orsher Stemplewicz (Aaron), Brad Feldman (Melissa), Elyse Berman (Andrew), Todd Feldman (Meghan), Brett Feldman, Brooke Feldman, Larry Feldman (Lingling) and Kimberly Feldman. Her loving great grandchildren include Corvin Fuchs Orsher, Vivian Leah Stemplewicz, Jack and Claire Feldman.
Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Libby Newman Legacy Residency Award Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. A description of the fellowship can be found here. Donations can be made here: Libby Newman Legacy Residency Award Fund.