National Geographic : 1948 Jul
) National Geographic Society Painting by William Gropper On Market Day, Lancaster County's "Plain People" Drive to Ephrata to Sell the Produce ofTheir Rich Farms Bearded farmers and their wives, members of the Church of the Brethren or the Mennonite faith, wear traditionalbroad-brimmed hats and coal-scuttle bonnets. Instead of automobiles and trucks, many use horse-drawn buggies and carts (left), obeying their religious tenets, which forbid worldly display. William Gropper painted "Ephrata Market" and other Pennsylvania German scenes from mental notes, for his subjects refused to pose for sketches. To convey the mood and tempo oftheir life, Gropper applied colors "as rich and pure as the feeling one gets from the soil in Pennsylvania." Rural scenes so reminded the artist ofthe period ofPieter Breughel that he used the 16th-century Flemish method of underpainting with gesso, or plaster of Paris. Ephrata, midway between the Susquehanna and Schuylkill Rivers, isthe center of a prosperous agricultural and livestock-raising area. The town dates back to 1732, when Johann Conrad Beissel founded aDunkard community. Ephrata Cloisters, built by Beissel and his followers, are one of North America's oldest monastic relics.