Saturday, July 31, 2010


"The Barnes Foundation is the only sane place to see art in America."
~Henri Matisse

On Thursday I went to visit the Barnes Foundation outside of Philadelphia in Merion. There has been quite a lot of controversy surrounding this museum lately because of the documentary, The Art of the Steal. I went before watching the doc. The museum was founded by Albert Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." He was an avid art collector who bought hundreds of impressionist paintings before the artists were famous. When he died, he left in his will that the collection was to always remain in Merion but through some loop holes and tricky maneuvering, the city of Philadelphia has managed to secure the collection for a new Barnes Museum along the Ben Franklin Parkway.  I watched the doc after I visited to the Foundation and was deeply saddened at the plans to go against Mr. Barnes will. I would love to hear how others feel about this move.  I think part of what made my visit so moving was the building, the amazing gardens and arboretum around the mansion, and the closeness I felt to the art being in such an intimate space (a limited number of tickets are sold each day and only available online by reservation).  I couldn't take any photos inside the museum so I only have a few of the outside.

Beautiful gardens around the foundation.

Unusual trees in the arboretum like this monkey puzzle tree.

Amazing carvings above the windows by Jacques Lipchitz.

African inspired reliefs around the front doors. Barnes thought African art was the precursor to modern art and inside the museum are hundreds of examples of beautiful carvings and masks.

A large sign in front of a wealthy residence across the street from the Barnes.

Another protest sign in a neighbor's yard.
Visit Friends of the Barnes for more info.

A photo I found online showing the interior. Barnes hung the art along with pieces of metal work. He arranged them to be pleasing to the eye and play off one another. Not only will you find work by famous Impressionist artists but there are religious paintings from Medieval Europe, hand painted PA Dutch hope chests, African and Asian art, and works by artists such as El Greco and Hieronymus Bosch.
The collection is valued at over 30 billion dollars! All in a little museum in Merion, PA. All collected by a self made man from a working class family that was laughed at when he first showed the collection.
You better hurry out and see it before it moves to Philadelphia next year. I'm sure poor Albert is turning over in his grave.


Possible Impossibilities Studio said...

Oh my gosh! What a treasure! Such a saddness when big money snaps it's fingers, dispite the artit's wishes.
Wonderful photos Jen!

Faerie Moon Creations said...

Such amazing images and scenery. How awful that it's to be moved - especially when it goes against what Barnes had requested in his very own will. Thank you for sharing. Theresa

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and these truly beautiful photos of the grounds. It is a tragedy what is happening to the Barnes.

Rue said...

I think it's horrible that someone can just come in and move the art - loophole or not! It's too bad he had no family to take this decision to court. The art belongs in his home - permanently!

Helen Barnes said...

Gorgeous photos.....shame about the art being moved :-(

Carolee said...

So sad about it being moved...MUST go see it this year! Thanks for the heads-up. :)