Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education
Between 1912 and 1951, Albert C. Barnes assembled one of the world’s most important holdings of post-impressionist and early modern art, acquiring works by avant-garde European and American artists. Barnes continually experimented with the display of his collection, arranging and rearranging the works in ensembles, symmetrical wall compositions organized according to the formal principles of light, line, color, and space, rather than by chronology, nationality, style, or genre.
The ensembles changed as Barnes made acquisitions, trades and new visual connections between the holdings, which diversified with the addition of African sculpture, antiquities, Asian art, Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles, manuscripts, old master paintings, and European and American decorative and industrial arts. Integrating art and craft, and objects from across cultures and time periods, Barnes sought to demonstrate the continuity of artistic traditions and the universal impulse for creative expression.
Drawing on the Foundation’s rich archives, and other non-Gallery collections, this textured exhibition charts Barnes’s important friendships, collaborations, and discourse with artists, philosophers, educators, collectors and dealers—including William Glackens, John Dewey, Violette de Mazia, Leo Stein, and Paul Guillaume—as he assembled his collection, refined his aesthetic and educational theories, and established the curriculum of his Foundation.