Adults: $18, Seniors: $15,
Students: $10, Children: Free
Mon, Wed. Thurs, Sat, Sun: 9:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tues: Closed
ART IN PERSPECTIVE:
THE BARNES COLLECTION
Take the controversy out of the Barnes Foundation move and all you're left is a collection of some of the best works of some of the best artist that has ever walked this earth.
The spellbinding art ensemble includes a mind numbing litany of obra maestra: 181 by Renoir, 69 Cezanne, 59 Matisse, 46 Picasso, 21 Soutine, 18 Rousseau, 16 Modigliani, 11 Degas, 7 Van Gogh and 6 Seurat among other European and American painters from Titian to Monet and Manet, from Gauguin to Glackens and Prendergrast, Goya and Hugo. In all, 800 significant and historic paintings of the past hang on the still unworn walls of the new home of the Barnes foundation, architected by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. With these masterworks are 3,000 objects arranged as they were in their previous home, exactly as they were thoughtfully imagined, envisioned and placed at Merion, Pennsylvania by Dr. Albert C. Barnes.
Albert C. Barnes was born on January 2, 1872 in Philadelphia, PA to a family of modest means. Lacking affluence but highly intelligent, he was accepted to attend Central High School in Philadelphia. It is there where he would meet, William Glackens an artist who would prove to be instrumental in his later interest in collecting art. Meanwhile, the fairly skilled sportsman paid his way through college and medical school by boxing, playing baseball and tutoring. Though after graduation, he opted to become a chemist instead.
In 1899, Barnes and German chemist Herman Hille developed Argyrol, an antiseptic solution made from silver nitrate. With savvy business acumen and sheer persistence, Barnes was able to market Argyrol directly to physicians in the U.S. and abroad. The product was a hit and Barnes became a millionaire. By 1907, Barnes bought out Herman Hille and became sole owner of Argyrol.
By 1910, Barnes had started developing an interest in and appreciation of art with the help of his former classmate, William Glackens. In 1911, he commissioned Glackens to purchase any and all art Glackened deemed worth acquiring for the sum of $20,000. Glackens returned with a collection of 20 paintings, most of which Barnes hated. Glackens persuaded Barnes to keep the collection for a year. If Barnes had not learned to like them by then, he would resell the paintings for him. Of course, the paintings grew on Barnes and eventually became the center of the Barnes Collection.
In 1929, Barnes decided to sell the company for a sum of $6 million. Barnes was an extremely lucky man as the sale just preceded the stock market crash. The crash and the later discovery of antibiotics would have surely wiped out Barnes's wealth.
Luckily, cash in hand, Barnes began to collect art in earnest. He befriended many artists including Henry Matisse and Pablo Picasso, both of whom he met in the Paris house of another prominent collector, Gertrude and Leo Stein.
As Barnes's acquisitions piled up and his exposure to artists became more frequent, Barnes increasingly became a more profound student of the art. He began to contemplate how to arrange his collection in ways beyond chronology and style. He believed in living art-- that is, that art has life unbound by time, style, ethnicity or genre. Devising an arrangement using unifying principles of light, line, color and space, he would later assemble seemingly unrelated works of Van Gogh, Cezanne and Renoir, for instance, and hang them in a way that showcased parallell structures and continuity.
Colors, shapes and patterns emerge in very distinct works, at times complementing each other, at times enhancing through opposition. Supplementing these are various artistic iron works, furniture, pottery and other objet d'art, again whose lines, patterns, symmetry, spatial relation and colors mimic, complement or contrast. The result? The arrangement of the collection, itself, becomes a four dimensional piece of art: the two dimensions within the paintings, the 3rd dimension that links the objects and the paintings, and the fourth dimension which lies in the imagination of the perceiver. What Barnes attempted to achieve is an experience beyond what is offered in a museum.
To put it into words is difficult, but imagine this. Barnes places you in a room, a room that has a table, a table around which three men are playing cards. It's juxtaposition three times over. Reality suspended, you find yourself in a Cezanne painting, transported through the seamless continuity of still life and real life. This is the type of experience in which Barnes was interested and which he ardently tried to protect.
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Click to Enlarge Image