Gallery Lessons

Gallery Lessons

School Group Gallery Lessons
© Michael Perez


The lessons that the Barnes Foundation offers to schools are centered on the Foundation’s extraordinary art collection and encourage learners to appreciate the features common to all art regardless of the culture, medium, style, and time in which it was created.  Facilitated by docents using an inquiry-based approach to education in and through the arts, all lessons promote interdisciplinary and cross-cultural connections that meet current Pennsylvania curriculum standards in the Arts and Humanities.  Through discussion of the plastic elements of art, students become active learners, critical thinkers and observers, and enlightened art appreciators.

The Foundation accommodates student groups from any type of educational setting, including public, private, and parochial schools, home schools, after-school and out-of-school programs, and community centers, tailoring lessons to meet the needs, grade levels, and abilities of each group. Grant-subsidized outreach programs for select grades within the School District of Philadelphia are available on a limited basis. Some of these programs include in-classroom lessons, as well as visits to the Barnes Foundation.

School programs are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, at 10 and 11:30 am, and last approximately one hour, except as noted. Space is limited to 60 students per visit.  Booking at least 30 days in advance is highly recommended.  Admission is $5 per person, including chaperones.

Request a visit for your K-12 group online.

For more information, please e-mail or call 215.278.7300.

Lesson Topics

Educators may choose from the following themed gallery lessons. Groups planning to visit more than once are encouraged to take the General Introduction before taking a second lesson on a theme that can be tied into their classroom curricula.

General Introduction

Introduces students to the history and collection of the Barnes Foundation and uses collection highlights to focus on what Dr. Barnes considered to be the universal plastic elements of art.  Students learn about the concepts and application of line, light, color, and space and begin to analyze the way that the collection is displayed in the symmetrical wall arrangements that Barnes called ensembles. 

Math Games and Art

Students in grades 3–8 explore the Barnes through math activities using the Keys to the Collection app.


Throughout history, artists of many cultures have focused on capturing images of people. They have done this in different ways, showing what people look like, at the same time as revealing aspects of their personalities.  Through the study of individual and group portraits, along with African masks and sculpture, students discuss how artists use tools and materials, including elements such as color, brushstroke, and composition, to express identity.

Impressionists and Post-Impressionists: Influence, Technique, and Innovation

Through discussion of paintings by artists including Cézanne, Degas, Monet, and Renoir, students learn about the qualities of impressionist and post-impressionist art.  Discussing color, light, and brushstroke, students evaluate the presentation of the everyday world in impressionist and post-impressionist art.

Ensembles: Reflections and Connections

Like a puzzle, every wall at the Barnes Foundation is made up of many pieces – including paintings, metalwork, furniture, and pottery. Students consider how the parts of the ensembles, or wall arrangements, fit together, by discussing the plastic elements of art, as well as the ideas of balance, symmetry, and unity. Through the ensembles, students learn to make comparisons and see connections between works of art of different cultures, media, periods, and styles.

Landscapes in Art and Nature

In a lesson that focuses on the many different visual qualities of nature and the way in which artists capture nature in their art, students look at and compare landscapes in art and nature.