Yesterday Rosie and I went on the student activities sponsored trip to The Barnes Foundation. For a mere $10 we were granted transportation to and from the foundation and admission, a real treat.
The foundation is an American educational art and horticultural institution (the Merion location) whose mission, which dates back to its founding in 1922, is the promotion of the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts.
The collection is celebrated for its exceptional breadth, depth, and quality. It includes works by some of the greatest European and American masters of impressionism, post-impressionist, and early modern art, as well as African sculpture, Pennsylvania German decorative arts, Native American textiles, metalwork, and more.
What’s especially inspiring about the collection is that Dr. Barnes continually experimented with the display of his collection, arranging and rearranging the works in ensembles, symmetrical wall compositions organized according to the formal principles of light, line, color, and space, rather than by chronology, nationality, style, or genre.
My father, an artist and art professor at Louisiana State University, took our family to the south of France for his sabbatical when I was in high school and we spent the entirety of the trip literally “retracing” artist Cezanne’s footsteps. Because of this, while at the foundation, I was particularly drawn to Cezanne’s pieces having been to many of the landscapes in his paintings. Rosie, who will be going on the Bryn Mawr 360 trip to Marseille this spring break, also enjoyed the works of French post-impressionist painters, Cezanne, Matisse, Monet (to name a few), but her attention was more so captured by American painter, Maurice Prendergast, liking what she described as the “mosaic like” component of his paintings.
The foundation recently relocated the collection from Merion to downtown Philadelphia, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, but received much criticism for the move. The controversy is portrayed excellently in the documentary, The Art of the Steal, which I had happened upon in the instant streaming portion of my Netflix account while still in high school.
Rosie and I had both been to the Merion location prior to this trip, and while we agree the Merion location was better, the collection is still a must see.