When people think of Philadelphia, certain historical and educational attractions usually come to mind–chief amongst them Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. However, we here at Harden ardently believe that another site should be added to that list–the Barnes Foundation, an educational art and horticultural institution in the cultural heart of the City of Brotherly Love. In 1912 Albert C. Barnes, a chemist who made a fortune by developing and subsequently marketing an early anti-gonorrhea drug, began to both study and collect art. By his death in 1951, Barnes had acquired one of the world’s foremost collections of Impressionist and Modernist art–think Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse–along with a number of works from non-Western cultures. Of course, the most fascinating part about Barnes was the fanatical way in which he arranged his vast collection in the mansion he built in Lower Merion, PA to house it. Indeed, Barnes stipulated in his will that his precise, cheek-by-jowl installation was to remain in effect for perpetuity–and despite the collection’s move to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012, Barnes’ original installation remains in place to this day. In fact, the only change made to the collection’s arrangement is the removal of Matisse’s great Fauve masterpiece, “Le Bonheur de vivre,” from its subpar position on the stairway landing to a large alcove on the balcony overlooking the main gallery. By making this foray into the 21st Century–while remaining true to Barnes’ wishes–the Barnes Foundation has taken an important step in bringing this truly special collection of art to the forefront of the national art scene. The next time that you are in Philadelphia, make sure to stop by.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy,
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm.