Last Friday, at an event celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of the new Barnes building in Philadelphia, a painting that was only ever seen by a few people was installed by the entrance to the Collection Gallery in Philadelphia. Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the 1926 portrait painted in Paris by Giorgio de Chirico, is now at the entrance to the collection he created.
When I came to the Foundation in 2006, this portrait of Dr. Barnes hung on the wall next to the reception desk in the lobby of the Merion Administration Building, which used to be the Barnes's residence.
Giorgio de Chirico. Dr. Albert C. Barnes, 1926.
The Barnes portrait had once been in a small room on the lower level of the Merion gallery, beside another De Chirico portrait of the art dealer Paul Guillaume. Dr. Barnes had given Guillaume the title “Foreign Secretary of the Barnes Foundation" and further honored him by naming the room the Paul Guillaume Room.
The painting also made a trip to Paris a few years ago as part of a De Chirico retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. I heard subsequently that the French conservators had some trouble unlocking a security device as they were preparing the painting to return to Philadelphia. They were laughing, claiming that Barnes wanted to stay in Paris, a place he enjoyed and frequented during his life.
It was more recently featured in our first special exhibition in Philadelphia, Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education, on view from May 2012 through March 2013.
We had a great time at the first anniversary event last week, revealing the portrait in its new spot to a full house of alumni, students, staff, and visitors, who were excited to see the portrait at the entrance to the gallery. Next time you visit, do note it on your way into the Collection Gallery.
What do you think of the new placement of the painting?