Petra Haas

Petra Haas, who lives in an old stone house on a country road outside the village of Oley in Berks County, Pennsylvania, has spent her career perfecting a 19th century painting technique, utilizing stencils – theorem painting. A cross-over artist, uniting the old and the new, she explains: “I haven’t left the art form. I’ve taken it and brought it into the modern day…It’s like taking both ends of the spectrum and joining them together. It’s like being able to mix oil and water.”

Theorem painting is an early American decorative technique that dates back to the first half of the 19th century. The word Theorem suggests, according to Webster’s “New World Dictionary,” an expression of relations in an equation or formula.” As such, the cohesive composition is achieved through a series of stencils cut in such a manner that no two areas immediately next to each other can be placed on the same stencil. Any theorem will require the sequence of two or more stencils or overlays.

Although theorem painting has had a long history on both sides of the Atlantic, it has remained somewhat obscure…Except for sporadic revivals, this art form has never reached its fullest potential. This is largely due to the scarcity of published pattern material. Thus, this technique has only flourished locally, mostly in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania where the techniques have passed from generation to generation and from teacher to student.