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Decoding Barnes’s Ensembles

On-Site / The Barnes Method

Wednesdays, November 10 – December 8, 12 – 2pm


Ensemble view, Room 14, west wall, Philadelphia. © The Barnes Foundation

$220; members $198
(4 classes, no class Nov 24; on-site)

Barnes Method courses follow the teachings of Albert Barnes and Violette de Mazia. Classes focus on rigorous formal analysis and direct visual engagement with works of art. In this method, close looking at art helps build critical-thinking skills that can be carried beyond the gallery walls.

About the Class

By arranging his collection into groupings called “ensembles,” Albert Barnes disrupted traditional historical and geographic boundaries to focus on the commonalities between fine art and everyday objects. In the ensembles, paintings, metalwork, furniture, ceramics, and textiles are placed side by side in unexpected and surprising ways. Dr. Barnes designed these groupings as teaching tools—and they are still as enigmatic and enlightening to us now as they were in the early 20th century.

Capacity: 18


William Perthes

Perthes is the Bernard C. Watson Director of Adult Education at the Barnes. He has taught courses at the Barnes as well as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and West Chester and Villanova Universities. His scholarship focuses on American modernism and the abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell.