About the Barnes Foundation
ABOUT THE BARNES FOUNDATION
The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings, the Barnes integrates art and objects from across cultures and time periods to reveal the universal impulse to create, as well as the personal expression of each artist. The intimacy and unique character of the Barnes’s galleries defy categorization and provide a haven for exploration, discovery, and rediscovery, no matter one’s background or familiarity with art. Since moving to the heart of Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes has built upon the progressive vision of its founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, with programs that enrich the lives of audiences today and provide a forum for exploring ideas of enduring relevance and power.
The Barnes’s permanent collection features more than 3,000 works presented in symmetrical wall arrangements called “ensembles,” combining masterpieces by artists such as Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh with ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and non-Western art, as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art. This pioneering approach, conceived by Dr. Barnes, overturns traditional hierarchies and accentuates similarities that have been fundamental to human expression across time and place. The collection includes the following highlights:
- 181 works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (the largest single group of the artist’s paintings in the world);
- 69 works by Paul Cézanne, including The Card Players (1890–1892) and The Large Bathers (1895–1906) (the largest single group of the artist’s paintings in the world);
- 59 works by Henri Matisse, including The Dance (1932–1933), which was commissioned by Dr. Barnes for the main gallery space, and Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) (1905–1906);
- 46 works by Pablo Picasso;
- 16 works by Amedeo Modigliani (with 12 paintings each, the Barnes and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, have the largest collections of Modigliani paintings in the world);
- Masterworks by Henri Rousseau, Georges Seurat, Chaim Soutine, and Vincent van Gogh;
- 20th-century American paintings by William Glackens, Charles Demuth, Maurice Prendergast, and Horace Pippin;
- Old Master paintings by El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and Paolo Veronese; and
- Works that emphasize connections across cultures and artistic genres, including 125 pieces of African sculpture, masks, and tools; Native American jewelry, textiles, and ceramics; Asian paintings, prints, and sculptures; medieval manuscripts and sculptures; ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art; and American and European decorative arts and ironwork, including one of the most outstanding collections of wrought iron in the US (887 pieces in total).
Inaugurated in 2012, the Barnes Foundation’s exhibitions program features presentations that resonate with the institution in a myriad of ways and reveal new perspectives for experiencing the collection. Building on Dr. Barnes’s legacy of working with the artists of his day, the exhibition program often presents the work of living artists in exhibitions that are in dialogue with Barnes holdings and history, and speak to the issues of our time.
Among the Barnes’s special exhibitions are From Today, Painting Is Dead: Early Photography in Britain and France (2019), its second survey of photography, featuring nearly 250 early images created by French and British photographers; Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist (2018), the US debut of this landmark exhibition exploring Morisot’s significant yet under-recognized contributions; Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema (2018), a major exhibition examining the artistic exchange between the renowned impressionist painter and his son, celebrated filmmaker Jean Renoir; Kiefer Rodin (2017), which echoes Dr. Barnes’s belief in artistic expression as an endless conversation between works of different times and places; Mohamed Bourouissa: Urban Riders (2017), focused on a North Philadelphia community’s efforts at neighborhood revitalization and youth empowerment; Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie (2017), a citywide exhibition featuring works by more than 50 artists in the Roberts Gallery, in street interventions throughout Philadelphia, and on the web; Live and Life Will Give You Pictures: Masterworks of French Photography, 1890–1950 (2016), its first survey of photography; Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change (2016), which examined the artist’s stylistic development during the First World War; Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, Fred Wilson: The Order of Things (2015), for which the Barnes commissioned three large-scale installations by the artists who responded to the unconventional way Dr. Barnes chose to display his collection; Yinka Shonibare MBE: Magic Ladders (2014), offering a dramatic, playful, irreverent examination of identity, history, and politics; Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall (2013); and Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education (2012), which inaugurated the Barnes’s Philadelphia campus.
In 2019, the Barnes presented its first installation of paintings in the Annenberg Court, Pat Steir’s Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series.
Central to the Barnes Foundation’s founding mission is the belief that education should be based on social interaction and personal experience, and that the arts foster this type of learning for people at every stage of their lives and should be accessible to all. The Barnes is expanding this commitment through partnerships with Philadelphia schools and universities.
The Barnes-de Mazia Education Program
Direct engagement with works of art in the Barnes collection galleries has been at the core of the Foundation’s curriculum since its founding. The Barnes-de Mazia courses provide extraordinary access to the Barnes’s masterpieces and are rooted in the original teachings of Dr. Barnes, Violette de Mazia, and John Dewey.
Launched in 2016, the Foundation’s expanded education program for adults builds on this methodology with new educational approaches that have emerged since the Barnes was founded. The curriculum provides insight into the material and techniques of art making, as well as the social, cultural, and political circumstances that shaped artistic movements around the world.
The Barnes offers individual classes as well as the Barnes-de Mazia Certificate Program, a two-year track for which undergraduate and graduate students can receive academic credit through the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available for most courses.
Through its K–12 education program, as well as outreach programs for specific grades within the School District of Philadelphia, the Barnes engages more than 10,000 students with the arts annually. Taught in the classroom and on-site in the Barnes’s collection galleries, lessons promote interdisciplinary and cross-cultural connections to reinforce Pennsylvania Core Standards. The Barnes also offers workshops and classroom resources to K–12 teachers and administrators.
In 2018, with generous support from the Dr. Sheldon Weintraub Fund, the Barnes developed a special curriculum to serve professionals in the medical, health, and social service fields. This program focuses on how gallery-based engagement with works of art can inform skills necessary in a clinical setting. Students from Penn Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Drexel University participated in a series of workshops taught by William Perthes, Bernard C. Watson Director of Adult Education.
The Barnes is also working in collaboration with colleges and universities to serve as an accessible resource for students in higher education. The Foundation’s academic partnership with Lincoln University includes classes at the Barnes and summer internships. In 2019, the exhibition From Today, Painting Is Dead: Early Photography in Britain and France was produced as part of a new educational venture between the Barnes and the University of Pennsylvania, led by Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President of the Barnes, and professor Aaron Levy, with curatorial contributions from students in the 2018 Spiegel-Wilks Curatorial Seminar Ars Moriendi: Life and Death in Early Photography.
The Barnes Foundation invests in original research relating to its collection and brings together the most influential minds in the field to advance scholarship in art history, art criticism, and museology. Through symposia, lectures, publications, and higher education partnerships, the Barnes is continuing to grow its resources for scholars in Philadelphia and across the globe.
Barnes publications include Matisse in the Barnes Foundation (2016), which preceded a symposium dedicated to the artist’s work that brought together over 20 international scholars; African Art in the Barnes Foundation: The Triumph of L’Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance (2015); The Architecture of the Barnes Foundation (2012); The Barnes Foundation: Masterworks (2012); Renoir in the Barnes Foundation (2012); and American Paintings and Works on Paper in the Barnes Foundation (2010).
LIBRARY, ARCHIVES, AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
The Barnes Foundation’s Honickman Library and institutional archives provide scholars and visitors access to important resources relating to the institution’s history and collection. Located at the Philadelphia campus, the library is home to over 9,000 books, periodicals, databases, and other resources on art history—especially 19th- and 20th-century art movements—art education, visual literacy, philosophy, psychology, and art conservation.
The archives include documents related to the Foundation’s history, rare books, pamphlets, and exhibition catalogues. Of particular interest to researchers is Dr. Barnes’s correspondence, which comprises 125 linear feet of letters between Dr. Barnes and figures such as Paul Philippe Cret, Charles Demuth, John Dewey, Paul Guillaume, Charles S. Johnson, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Matisse, Pierre Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles and Maurice Prendergast, Bertrand Russell, Leo Stein, and Carl Van Vechten. The Honickman Library and archives are open by appointment only.
The 12-acre Barnes Arboretum in Merion, Pennsylvania, contains more than 2,500 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. The living collection was founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Dr. Barnes’s wife, Laura L. Barnes. In 2018, the Barnes launched an education partnership with Saint Joseph’s University, expanding opportunities for students and the local community. The long-running Horticulture Certificate Program—a three-year program in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design established in 1940 by Laura Barnes—continues, and Saint Joseph’s University will explore a new horticulture minor as well as academic credit for select courses. The Barnes retains oversight of the arboretum and the historic buildings, while the operations and grounds are now managed by Saint Joseph’s University.
Born into a working-class family in Philadelphia, Dr. Albert Coombs Barnes (1872–1951) graduated from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to study chemistry in Germany. Dr. Barnes made his fortune by co-inventing the silver-based antiseptic Argyrol with his German colleague Hermann Hille.
In 1907, Dr. Barnes bought out Hille’s share of the Barnes and Hille Company, and in 1908 he established the A. C. Barnes Company in Philadelphia, which he continued to run until 1929. Dr. Barnes organized his employees’ work day to include a two-hour seminar, in which they discussed the writings of William James, George Santayana, and John Dewey, and examined original works of art.
Dr. Barnes’s interest in art led to a renewal of his friendship with a former high-school classmate, the artist William Glackens. In 1912, Dr. Barnes sent Glackens to Paris to scout the galleries for modernist paintings. Glackens bought more than 30 works on Dr. Barnes’s behalf. Subsequently, relying primarily on his own eye, Dr. Barnes acquired an outstanding collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings; medieval manuscripts and sculptures; old master paintings; Native American fine crafts; early American furniture and decorative art; and ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art. He was also an early and influential collector of African sculpture.
In 1917, Dr. Barnes enrolled in a postgraduate philosophy seminar at Columbia University taught by John Dewey. The two men became close friends and ideological collaborators, and began a correspondence that would span more than three decades. Inspired by Dewey’s theories of experiential education, “learning by doing,” and social transformation, Dr. Barnes decided to expand his factory seminars into a more advanced experiment in education.
In October 1922, Dr. Barnes purchased a 12-acre arboretum, established in 1880 by Captain Joseph Lapsley Wilson, that stood down the road from the Barneses’ home, which they called “Lauraston.” A few months later, on December 4, 1922, he received a charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to establish the Barnes Foundation, an educational institution dedicated to promoting the appreciation of fine art and horticulture. Barnes hired the noted architect Paul Philippe Cret to design a residence and a gallery on the arboretum grounds. The Barnes Foundation was officially dedicated on March 19, 1925.
Dr. Barnes’s intended audience for the Foundation included factory and shop workers, poor and disenfranchised people, African Americans, and young artists. The Barnes educational method was based on experiencing original works, participating in class discussions, reading key texts in philosophy and the traditions of art, and looking objectively at the use of color, line, light, and space in each work of art. Dr. Barnes believed that students would not only learn about art but also improve their critical thinking and their ability to learn and succeed in general. These skills would enable them to be more productive participants in a democratic society.
In 2012, the Barnes Foundation moved to its current location on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, in a new building designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners.
The Barnes Foundation’s 93,000-square-foot building in downtown Philadelphia, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners, provides significant facilities for the Foundation’s core programs in art education, as well as for temporary exhibitions and visitor amenities. The legendary Barnes art collection is presented within a 12,000-square-foot gallery that replicates the dimensions and shapes of the original Merion spaces, as well as the founder’s conception of a visual interplay between art and nature. The building is the first major addition to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in more than 60 years.
The LEED Platinum building, conceived as “a gallery in a garden, and a garden in a gallery,” features a 150-seat auditorium, a conservation and research lab, classrooms, a 50-seat restaurant, and a gift shop.
Designed by OLIN, the grounds recall the Barnes Arboretum in Merion, notably the cedars and Japanese maples. A 40-foot abstract sculpture by the late Ellsworth Kelly, commissioned for the Barnes, stands by a reflecting pool near the entrance.