The Barnes Collection

The Barnes Collection

Allison and I just returned from a vacation along the East Coast (from Ottawa to Washington DC). Along the way we stopped into Philadelphia for 24 hours. During every city stop (including New York) we hit literally every art gallery. Allison was an art history major and has taught me all about art to the point where we now hit as many galleries as possible during our trips. 

I love what she has taught me about art. Its opened me up to an entirely new world that I never explored before meeting her. I love the history behind the artists, the politics, the relationship between artist and viewer, the gallery intricacies and of course, the beauty of it all. 

While we were in Philadelphia we stopped in to view the Barnes Collection. Years ago we watched The Art of the Steal, which was about the controversial moving of the gallery after Dr. Barne's death - so naturally we had to visit the collection.

We were BLOWN AWAY. 

Not only is the collection incredible (it is currently estimated to be worth between $20 and $30 billion), but the level of detail in how the work is shown (all done with the purpose of educating students on art) was mind blowing and so much fun. 

Barnes Collection

Barnes Collection


Philosophy

After establishing the Barnes Foundation "to promote the advancement of education and appreciation of the fine arts", Barnes published The Art in Painting. In it he explained how to cast aside subjective judgements of art (which we are all accustomed to) by using the objective and predictable scientific method. He focused on art's universal elements of line, light, color, and space and their relationships to one another. And he explained that these elements created art when their combination became expressive. 

In other words, anyone could "learn how to see". Art was for everyone. Art was democratic and not just for the wealthy. 

The Collection

Barne's collection grew to include 178 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes - more than in all the museums in Paris - as well as 60 Matisses, and 44 Picassos. The 2,500 items in the collection include major works by (among others) Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine, Seurat, Degas, and van Gogh.  

Now you see how it can we worth $20 - $30 billion dollars.

It is change not permanence that is the fundamental fact of the universe
— Albert C. Barnes

The Experience

The collection displays different types of items and works in "wall ensembles", which allow comparison and study of works from various time periods, geographic areas, and styles. If you want the below documentary It gives you a great description of how Barnes liked to group the art. Barnes had an incredible eye (but also a sense of humour).

This documentary follows Dr. Albert C. Barnes from his humble Philadelphia beginnings to his breakthrough medical discovery, and onto his whirlwind collecting of art and the formation of his legendary educational foundation. Narrated by John Lithgow, this film explores the reasons behind Barnes's "experiment in education," his progressive beliefs as an industrialist and educator, and the radical introduction of modern art to his American audience.
Today I learned...

Today I learned...

Today I learned...

Today I learned...