Barnes Foundation
History, Collection Highlights, Founder, Dr Albert C Barnes.

The Card Players (1890-92). Cezanne.
One of several masterpieces in the
Barnes art collection.

National Gallery of Art Washington DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Frick Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Guggenheim, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
J Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles

Barnes Foundation

Located in Lower Merion Township, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Barnes Foundation is an educational art institution which was founded in 1922 by Dr Albert Barnes (1872-1951), the antiseptic drugs tycoon. Financed from the profits of his drug Argyrol, the aim of the Barnes Foundation and its exceptional collection of European modern art, was to promote the advancement of education and appreciation of fine art. Barnes has been called the greatest single American art collector of the 20th century; moreover, the collection he built up is seen as one of the best art museums in America, due to its holdings of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, as well as works by artists of the Ecole de Paris, notably Renoir (1841-1919), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Matisse (1869-1954), and Modigliani (1884-1920). Barnes did not see eye to eye with the arts establishment, especially the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a result, the Foundation's museum remained closed to the public during his lifetime - entrance was by written appointment only. A degree of public entry was permitted from 1961 onwards, although it still has the reputation of being virtually inaccessible. Recently, the Foundation has permitted some of its paintings to go on tour, in order to pay for the upkeep of the building. Another mark of Barnes' eccentricity concerns the Foundation's permanent collection and its display. To begin with, the collection can never be loaned or sold; also, its paintings must remain in exactly the same position on the gallery walls as they were at the time of his death.

Art Institute of Chicago
Detroit Institute of Arts
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Indianapolis Museum of Art

See: Art Museums in Europe.

To help you get the most from
your visit to the Barnes
Foundation, please see:
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art

For an outstanding collection of
Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Oriental
Judaica, crafts and artifacts,
see: Jewish Art Museum.

For news of any temporary shows
of fine art being held at the
Barnes Foundation, see:
Art News Headlines.

For a list of the finest works of
painting and sculpture, by the
world's most famous artists, see:
Greatest Paintings Ever
Oils, watercolours, mixed media
from 1300-present.

For a list of the world's greatest
libraries and museum collections
of Muslim culture, see:
Museums of Islamic Art.


By 1912, having made his fortune in the antimicrobial drug manufacturing business, Barnes was able to devote most of his attention to collecting works of art. He began by asking his artist friends William Glackens and Alfred Henry Maurer to visit galleries in Paris in order to acquire a number of paintings: these included Van Gogh's Postman (1888) and Picasso's Woman with a Cigarette (1901). Later the same year, Barnes visited Paris himself, and bought several canvases including works by Paul Gauguin. Over time he also made a number of important contacts with gallery owners, collectors and dealers (notably Paul Guillaume), curators, and also painters (Matisse, Picasso et al). Among the other painters and sculptors he collected during the early days, were: Henri Matisse, Cezanne, Chaim Soutine, Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico, and Jacques Lipchitz. He was also drawn to Primitivism/Primitive Art, and acquired a significant number of African sculptures.

For the best art and design
colleges in Philadelphia and
and elsewhere in Pennsylvania,
see: Pennsylvania Art Schools.
For institutes and universities
of fine arts across America, see:
Best Art Schools.

In 1922, he established the Barnes Foundation, endowing it with his art collection, and began the construction of The Barnes Gallery/Museum. To preserve the Foundation's educational remit, Barnes drafted a detailed trust document limiting public admission to two days per week to enable the school to use the art collection for student study. Only after 1961 was the collection viewable by the public, albeit largely by advance reservation. However, these restrictions have recently been overruled, to raise money for extensive building maintenance and repair. During the period 1993-5, a group of 80 Impressionist paintings from the collection went on a world tour, and raised millions of dollars.

However, during the late 1990s, a number of financial irregularities were uncovered at the Foundation, which was found to be almost bankrupt. Three charitable bodies, the Annenberg Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts agreed to assist in raisingover $150 million on the condition that the Museum relocates to a more accessible site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in order to circumvent longstanding restrictions due to its location in a residential neighborhood. This move, due to be completed 2011/2012, should ensure that the Foundation's world-famous art collection is displayed in a manner consistent with the original Merion gallery, and should provide vastly increased space for the Foundation's art education program and conservation activities.


The Permanent Collection of the Barnes Foundation

Today, the collection contains over 2500 items, including 800 paintings valued at roughly $25 billion. It includes 180 works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 70 by Paul Cezanne, 60 by Henri Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, 20 by Chaim Soutine, 18 by Henri Rousseau, 16 by Modigliani, 11 by Edgar Degas, 7 by Vincent Van Gogh, 6 by Georges Seurat, as well as numerous other modern artists, including Gustave Courbet, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Maurice Utrillo, Giorgio de Chirico, and the American artists William Glackens, Charles Demuth, and Maurice Prendergast.

Renaissance art (c.1400-1600), Baroque art (c.1600-1720) and 18th century periods are represented by Titian, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, and Francisco Goya, respectively. In addition. the Barnes collection features a variety of ancient art, including Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, as well as tribal art, notably African art, along with decorative art from Europe and America. Not unlike the Phillips Collection, in Washington DC, paintings in the Barnes collection are group according to styles and theme, for the purpose of comparison and study.

Collection Highlights

The Barnes collection, now one of the best art museums in America, includes the following masterpieces of modern art.

• Gustave Courbet: Les Bas Blancs (Woman with White Stockings) (1861)
• Claude Monet: Camille au Metier (1875)
• Claude Monet: Le Bateau-Atelier (1876)
• Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Jeune garçon sur la plage d'Yport (1883)
• Georges Seurat: Models (1886-88)
• Van Gogh: The Smoker (1888)
• Van Gogh: The Postman (1888)
• Paul Gauguin: Haere Pape (1892)
• Paul Cezanne: The Card Players (1890-92)
• Picasso: Woman with a Cigarette (1901)
• Paul Cezanne: Les Grandes Baigneuses (1900-05)
• Henri Rousseau: Scout attacked by a Tiger (1904)
• Henri Matisse: Le Bonheur de Vivre (1905-6)
• Henri Matisse: Madras Rouge (1907)
• Pierre Auguste Renoir: Les Baigneuses (1918)
• Modigliani: Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne Sitting in Profile (1918)
• Modigliani: Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne (1919)

For another superb collection of modern art in Pennsylvania, please see: Carnegie Art Museum.

See also our short essay on art appreciation: How To Appreciate Paintings.

• For more about famous art-buyers and their collections, see: Art Collectors.
• For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.

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