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Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: A Comprehensive Guide

Guide To The Pennsylvania Academy Of Fine Arts



# Guide To The Pennsylvania Academy Of Fine Arts

## Summary
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). As the oldest art academy and museum in the United States, PAFA houses a remarkable collection of American art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. From portraits by renowned artists like Gilbert Stuart to modern works by contemporary American artists, PAFA offers a diverse range of artistic treasures. In this guide, we will take you through a brief history of the museum and highlight its must-see masterpieces. Whether you’re a serious art lover or simply looking to explore the art scene in Philadelphia, PAFA is a hidden gem that should not be missed.

## History Of The PAFA
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was established in 1805 by artist Charles Willson Peale, his son Rembrandt, sculptor William Rush, and 68 other Philadelphians. It opened its doors on Chestnut Street in 1806, during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The academy held its first exhibition in 1807, featuring artworks by the Peales, British artists of the time, and Benjamin West. West, an influential American artist who spent much of his life in England, played a significant role in the museum’s early years and taught many of America’s finest artists.

After a fire in 1845, the academy relocated to its current home in 1876. The building, designed by Frank Furness, is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its exterior features polychromed red brick and sculptures, while the interior boasts elaborate decorations. The three-story staircase is adorned with silver stars and a stunning cerulean blue ceiling. The walls are covered in stylized flowers against a rich red background, and even the marble floors are works of art. After a renovation in the 1970s, the ornate decor that had been covered was restored to its former glory. In 2005, the academy expanded with the opening of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building next door, providing additional exhibition space for student and contemporary artworks.

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## What To See At PAFA
Now that we’ve covered the history of PAFA, let’s dive into the must-see masterpieces and highlights of the museum:

### 1. Benjamin West, Death on a Pale Horse
This enormous canvas by Benjamin West measures over 25 x 14 feet. Inspired by the biblical passage from the Book of Revelation, the painting depicts the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Buildings are in ruins, people are in distress, and death relentlessly advances in every direction. Lions and a wild bull attack the crowd, emphasizing the chaos and destruction. This work showcases West’s transition from Neo-Classical to Romantic style, making it a fascinating piece to explore.

### 2. Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Landsdowne Portrait)
The PAFA owns an impressive collection of 24 paintings by Gilbert Stuart, making it the best representation of his work in any museum. One of Stuart’s most iconic pieces is his portrait of George Washington, known as the Landsdowne Portrait. Painted in the “Grand Manner” style, this full-length portrait exudes dignity and represents Washington as the leader of the nation. The academy’s version of the portrait is the original, and it also owns an Athenaeum-style headshot of Washington.

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### 3. Charles Willson Peale, Artist in his Museum
This intriguing historical portrait by Charles Willson Peale captures the artist’s love for art and his conviction of its value. Peale painted the piece at the age of 83, and it serves as both an advertisement for his natural history collection and a philosophical statement about the importance of art. The painting features a full-length self-portrait of Peale, lifting a large curtain to reveal his collection in Independence Hall. Visitors in period costumes can be seen in the distance, adding an element of realism to the scene. This portrait provides a unique glimpse into the world of art during Peale’s time.

### 4. Rembrandt Peale, Portrait of Jacques-Louis David
Rembrandt Peale, the son of Charles Willson Peale, was a talented artist in his own right. Inspired by his father and his studies with Benjamin West, Rembrandt painted numerous portraits, including one of the famous French Romantic artist Jacques-Louis David. This portrait showcases David’s vivacious expression and character, capturing his essence as an artist.

### 5. Thomas Sully, George Frederick Cooke as Richard III
Thomas Sully, known for his portrait paintings, created several notable works after Gilbert Stuart’s death. One standout piece in the PAFA collection is Sully’s portrait of the actor George Frederick Cooke as Richard III. This portrait has a captivating wow factor, depicting Cooke in character. While it may not possess the same level of artistic merit as other works in the collection, it offers a unique glimpse into the world of theater and performing arts.

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## Conclusion
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is a true gem in Philadelphia’s art scene. From its extensive collection of American art to the stunning architecture of its Victorian Gothic building, PAFA offers an enriching experience for art enthusiasts and history lovers alike. Whether you’re captivated by the dramatic paintings of Benjamin West or fascinated by the portraits of Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Sully, PAFA has something to offer everyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this underrated museum and delve into the rich artistic history of America.

**FAQs**
**Q: What are the opening hours of PAFA?**
A: The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is open from [insert opening hours].

**Q: Is there an entrance fee for PAFA?**
A: Yes, there is an entrance fee for visiting PAFA. The current ticket prices are [insert ticket prices].

**Q: Is photography allowed inside the museum?**
A: Yes, photography is allowed for personal use. However, flash photography and tripods are not permitted.

**Final Thought**
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is a treasure trove of American art, showcasing masterpieces from across the centuries. Whether you’re a seasoned art lover or just beginning your exploration of the art world, PAFA is sure to captivate and inspire. Plan your visit to this underrated gem in Philadelphia and immerse yourself in the rich history and beauty of American art.



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