William J. Glackens: Artist and Friend

November 8, 2014–February 16, 2015

Albert C. Barnes met William J. Glackens at Philadelphia’s Central High School in 1885.  They became close friends through their common interests in art and sports—both studied drawing and played baseball for the school’s team. After graduation, the two friends went their separate ways, Glackens to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a career as an illustrator and painter, and Barnes to the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine. He continued his studies in chemistry at two German universities before developing Argyrol, an antiseptic silver compound. This medicine, marketed globally, launched two successful businesses, Barnes & Hille and the A.C. Barnes Company.

William and Lena Glackens

Barnes’s interest in the study of art, especially as it related to education, renewed his friendship with Glackens in around 1910.  Dr. Barnes established friendships with many of the American artists whose work he collected, but his relationship with William Glackens was especially close.  They visited each other’s homes, enjoyed home-cooked dinners, criticized contemporary art, gossiped about fellow artists, and picnicked in the countryside of Lancaster County.  They also shared more formal occasions, such as the Barnes Foundation’s opening in 1925 and concerts of spirituals sung by the Bordentown Glee Club in the Merion Gallery. 


Images: Albert C. Barnes and William J. Glackens, c. 1920. Courtesy of the Glackens Family
William J. Glackens and his daughter, Lenna, 1915. Courtesy of the Glackens Family