Published: March 30, 2004
Robert Devlin Schwarz, 61, of Gladwyne, took the antiques business founded by his father in 1930 and turned it into one of the most respected art galleries in the United States. In the early 1970s he helped foster a renewed interest in Nineteenth Century European and American paintings and the fine and decorative arts of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Philadelphia.
Schwarz’s 1987 catalog A Gallery Collects Peales is considered a standard reference, as is the gallery’s 150 Years of Philadelphia Still Life Painting, the first comprehensive survey of the subject.
Schwarz’s father Frank had an antiques shop on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. With the grand hotels blacked out during the Second World War, he brought his wife, the former Marie Devlin, and their fraternal twins, Richard and Robert, to Philadelphia in 1942. Setting up a shop – with the family’s home above it – in a townhouse at 1806 Chestnut Street, near Rittenhouse Square, he expected to return to Atlantic City after the war. Fifty years later, his son Robert celebrated the firm’s golden anniversary in that location with a special catalog, Fifty Years on Chestnut Street.
Robert Schwarz was a graduate of Philadelphia’s Episcopal Academy and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Dickinson College in 1964. He studied the fine arts at the University of Vienna and the Barnes Foundation. Following college, he joined his father’s firm and began to work with prints and paintings. As curator of the Stephen Girard Collection at Girard College from 1970 to 1980, he documented that important historical collection in a scholarly catalog. Subsequently, he published more than 70 informative catalogs in conjunction with the gallery’s exhibitions.
The Schwarz Gallery has sold paintings and other works of art – American and European – to a wide range of private collectors as well as many of the country’s major museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brandywine River Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Timken Museum of Art and the Winterthur Museum. Robert Schwarz was a longtime member of the Art Dealer’s Association of America, The Art and Antique Dealers League of America and La Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art (CINOA).
His oldest son, Rob Jr, joined the family business in 2002 and has paid tribute to his father by successfully learning the workings of the art world.
Robert Schwarz married Pamela Pillion of Philadelphia in 1972. Their children are Robert D. Schwarz, Jr, a graduate of Villanova University, an art dealer at the Schwarz Gallery; Elizabeth, now a graduate student at Georgetown University; and Jonathan, 14, a student at the Vanguard School. His is also survived by his mother Marie, sister Frances Echague, and brother Richard D.
This past January, Robert Schwarz, Sr, his mother Marie and his son Robert, Jr, exhibited for the 13th time at the 50th annual Winter Antiques Show in New York. This year will mark the firm’s 17th appearance at the Philadelphia Antiques Show in the 33rd Street Armory (April 17-20). Marie and Robert Schwarz, Jr, will also continue to exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ USArtists show (also held in the 33rd Street Armory), as they have every autumn since 1994.
Robert is remembered as an honest man who was adored by all who met him. His charisma allowed him to charm and impress all. His love of his family will always be remembered.
An April 1 memorial service will take place at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at Broad and Cherry streets in Philadelphia. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Robert’s memory to the Abramson Cancer Fund, University of Pennsylvania, 1226 Penn Tower, 34th and Spruce streets, Philadelphia PA 19104-4282 or University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, Attn: Dr Dan Haller, 16 Penn Towers, 3460 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19104.
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