Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation: A Complete Guide to Nutter’s Art Collection

Guide To Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation: A Nutter’s Great Cache Of Art

# Guide To Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation: A Nutter’s Great Cache Of Art

## Summary

In this guide, we will take you on a journey through the fascinating history and incredible collection of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. As one of the top art museums in the United States, the Barnes Foundation houses a unique assortment of rare Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modernist art, including works by renowned artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Seurat, Van Gogh, and Cezanne. Founded by art collector Albert C. Barnes in 1922, this museum holds the last great private collection of art in the US. Despite his eccentricities, Barnes was passionate about sharing his appreciation for art, and his foundation stands as a testament to his vision.

## Who Is Albert Barnes? The Man & His Collection

Albert C. Barnes, a Philadelphia native, grew up in a working-class family and later became a successful medical professional. With his newfound wealth, Barnes turned his attention to building what he envisioned as “the greatest modern art collection” of his time. Starting in 1912, Barnes began collecting avant-garde works, initially through his friend Walter Glackens. Inspired by Glackens’ purchases in Paris, Barnes made regular trips himself and developed relationships with influential art collectors like Gertrude and Leo Stein. He also formed friendships with prominent artists such as Matisse.

Barnes distinguished himself as a bold and ambitious collector, amassing an unparalleled private collection of art. He acquired paintings from then up-and-coming artists like Henri Matisse, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso. Barnes even played a crucial role in discovering Chaime Soutine, a painter who would later become famous. His collection is now estimated to be worth around $30 billion, making it the largest private collection of its kind in the world.

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Barnes had grand ideas about the power of art. He believed in using art to uplift the lives of the impoverished and uncultured. In his book “The Art of Painting,” Barnes emphasized that true appreciation for art requires genuine understanding and observation. However, some of Barnes’ ideas were unconventional. When he established his art appreciation foundation in 1925, he intended it to serve as a school rather than a traditional museum. He insisted that his artworks be permanently displayed in his old house in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia. In this intimate setting, Barnes arranged his paintings in a way that he believed revealed aesthetic connections and stylistic compatibility, rather than organizing them by artist, medium, or period.

## The Barnes Foundation Controversy

Albert C. Barnes passed away tragically in a car accident in 1951. In his will, he left his collection to Lincoln University, an obscure local college, with the stipulation that the art be used for educational purposes rather than commercial display. This move was seen as a direct challenge to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a longstanding institution that coveted Barnes’ artworks. Barnes saw himself as an advocate for education, not exhibition, and maintained strict control over who could view his collection. He often turned away famous individuals and art critics, even signing rejection letters with his dog’s inked pawprint.

Barnes imposed rigid conditions and established an unbreakable trust in his will to maintain his vision for the collection. The artworks could not be sold, moved, lent, or reproduced, and the Foundation was limited to opening its doors to the public only two days a week. Additionally, the Foundation could only invest in public bonds, further restricting its financial flexibility. However, these conditions created challenges for the institution, and in the absence of management experts, Richard Glanton, a man who was the complete opposite of Barnes, eventually took control.

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Glanton, determined to break the trust, argued that the Foundation was in desperate need of repairs to preserve the artworks. He proposed loaning out the paintings to raise funds. The court ruling allowed the Foundation to embark on a world tour that generated $16 million. Nevertheless, the challenges persisted, including ongoing legal battles with neighbors who opposed the Foundation’s plans for a parking lot and cited noise pollution from tourists. Zoning regulations also limited attendance and fundraising efforts, making it increasingly difficult to sustain the collection in a suburban setting.

In 2002, the Barnes Foundation faced another legal challenge when it sought to move the collection to a new building adjacent to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Barnes’ will was once again contested, as supporters of the original location fought to preserve the collection’s unique character and guard against the influence of the profit-driven art world. While the motives behind the move were debated, practical considerations ultimately prevailed.

## Conclusion

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia stands as a testament to the passion and vision of Albert C. Barnes. Despite his eccentricities, Barnes created a truly exceptional collection of art that continues to captivate visitors from around the world. While the controversies surrounding Barnes’ will and the subsequent legal battles have shaped the trajectory of the institution, the collection itself remains a remarkable testament to his commitment to education and his love for art. Visiting the Barnes Foundation is a transformative experience that will undoubtedly leave art enthusiasts and novices alike in awe of the masterpieces on display.

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**Q: Is the Barnes Foundation open to the public?**

Yes, the Barnes Foundation is open to the public. However, please note that it has limited hours of operation. It is advisable to check their website for the most up-to-date information on visiting hours and ticket availability.

**Q: Can I take photographs inside the Barnes Foundation?**

Photography is not permitted inside the Barnes Foundation. Visitors are requested to respect this policy to preserve the integrity and copyright of the artworks.

**Q: Are guided tours available at the Barnes Foundation?**

Yes, guided tours are available at the Barnes Foundation. These tours offer valuable insight into the collection and are led by knowledgeable guides who can provide a deeper understanding of the art and its history.

**Q: Can I purchase souvenirs at the Barnes Foundation?**

Yes, the Barnes Foundation has a gift shop where visitors can purchase a variety of art-related souvenirs, including books, prints, and other unique items. Proceeds from these purchases support the Foundation’s educational programs and operations.

## Final Thought

The Barnes Foundation is a testament to the power of one individual’s passion for art. Albert C. Barnes’ unique approach to collecting and displaying artworks has created an unparalleled experience for visitors. This guide has provided a glimpse into the fascinating history of the Barnes Foundation and its impressive collection, inviting you to explore the world of art through the lens of this extraordinary institution. We encourage you to visit the Barnes Foundation and immerse yourself in the beauty and inspiration it offers.

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