Philadelphia Museum of Art
Pennsylvania Fine Arts Museum: History, Acquisitions, Collection Highlights.

Nude Descending a Staircase No.2
(1912) by Marcel Duchamp.

Philadelphia Museum of Art


One of the Largest Art Museums in America
History and Expansion
The Permanent Collection
How to Appreciate Paintings

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

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

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Before visiting the Philadelphia
Museum of Art, see:
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

One of America's Largest Art Museums

Established in 1876, following the Centennial Exposition, and known originally as the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is now one of the largest and best art museums in America if not the world. It stands at the western end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the city's Fairmount Park, a site it has occupied since 1928, and is home to 200 galleries and a permanent collection in excess of 225,000 objects. The collection traces the history of Western art since the birth of Christ, and Eastern art since the third millennium BCE. Particular strengths of the collection include: an outstanding assembly of European fine art dating from the medieval era onwards; one of the finest holdings of American art in the country; the second largest assembly of arms and armour in the United States; and an exceptional collection of Asian art. Other departments are concerned with modern art and contemporary art, works on paper (drawings, prints, photographs), textile arts and ceramics.

For details of any important
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Philadelphia Museum of Art,
see: Art News Headlines.

For details of the Top 40
3-D artists in America, see:
American Sculptors (1850-present)

See: Art Museums in Europe.

History and Expansion

The first curatorial departments were established in 1893: these were American Pottery; Numismatics; and Textiles, Lace and Embroidery. As the collections grew during the late 19th and early 20th century, new departments were added and existing ones modified under the direction of Honorary Curators. The museum's main departments now include: American Art; European Art; Modern & Contemporary Art; Prints, Drawings & Photographs; Arms & Armour; Asian Art; Costume & Textiles; Dutch Ceramics.

In October 2006, plans were announced for a new 80,000-square-foot underground gallery to be built beneath the museum, although a starting date has yet to be finalised. The project is estimated to last a decade and cost $500 million. Housing mainly contemporary sculpture, Asian art, and special exhibitions, the new gallery will boost the museum's available display space by 60 percent. Meantime, the museum's 200,000 books and periodicals, and 1.6 million other reference documents are relocating across the street to the art deco former headquarters of the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company - now known as the Perelman Building.



The Permanent Collection

The 225,000 items in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's permanent collection are divided into the following departments.

American Art
The American collection exemplifies 300 years of architecture, landscape and portrait paintings, sculpture, silver, glass, fine furniture and other decorative arts, with a particular emphasis on Philadelphia's traditions of craftsmanship. Highlights include Death on a Pale Horse (1817) by Benjamin West, an unrivalled holding of works by the Philadelphian realist painter Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) and a unique collection of Tucker porcelains.

European Art 1100–1500
This department illustrates the development of Medieval (Romanesque and Gothic styles) and early Renaissance art across Europe, notably in Medieval France and Renaissance Italy, Spain, and the Low Countries. As most of these works were commissioned for religious authorities and locations, biblical and ecclesistical imagery is the norm. Exhibits include a Medieval stone cloister from the Abbey of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines, as well as illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, stone sculpture, wood carvings, metalwork and reliquaries. Fine art painting is represented by Italian and Netherlandish works, by masters like Duccio di Buoninsegna and Fra Angelico, as well as Robert Campin, Jan van Eyck, and Rogier van der Weyden. Highlights include Saint Francis (1435) by Jan van Eyck; and Crucifixion with Virgin and Saint John (1450) by Rogier van der Weyden.

European Art 1500–1850
Masterpieces of European art from the period 1500-1850, feature paintings, sculpture, furniture, Italian maiolica ceramics, and tapestry art from the High Renaissance (1490-1530), Mannerist (1530-1600), Baroque (1600-1700), Rococo (c.1715-60), and Neoclassical (c.1760-1820) periods. Seventeenth century Dutch Realist painters are also well represented. Artists on show include Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, El Greco, Jacob van Ruisdael and many others. Later works include those by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, JMW Turner and Eugene Delacroix, among others. Highlights include: Pieta (1571-1576) by El Greco; Prometheus Bound (1611-12) by Peter Paul Rubens; and The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835) by JMW Turner. Sculptural highlights include Jean-Antoine Houdon’s memorable bust of Benjamin Franklin. Decorative art of the period is well illustrated by furniture, Sèvres porcelains, silverwares, metalwork, tapestry art, and items of interior design.

European Art 1850–1900
This short period, linking early 19th-century traditions with the arrival of modern art of the 20th century, is represented in the museum's collections of important paintings, sculpture, and ceramics exemplifying movements such as Impressionism, International Realism, Pointillism, Post-Impressionism, and Art Nouveau (Sezession, Jugendstil). Highlights include: The Battle of The Alabama and Kearsarge (1864) and The Departure of Steam Folkestone (1869) by Edouard Manet; Gray Weather, Grande Jatte (1888) by Georges Seurat; The Dance at Moulin Rouge (1889-90) by Toulouse-Lautrec; Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Arles (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh; Poplars (Autumn) (1891) and Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies (c.1899) by Claude Monet; The Large Bathers (1898-1905) by Paul Cezanne.

Sculpture highlights include group of more than 100 bronzes, marbles, and plasters created by the naturalist French sculptor Auguste Rodin, including the first bronze cast of his masterpiece, The Gates of Hell (1880-1917). Other late-19th century treasures include furniture and wallpaper designs by William Morris; a collection of Art Nouveau furniture, glass, and ceramics.

Modern & Contemporary Art (1900-present)
This embraces paintings, collage, sculpture, video art, and design from 1900 onwards. It features works by Europeans like Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, and Salvador Dali, as well as modern American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, and Sol LeWitt, among others. Highlights include: Three Musicians by Picasso; Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 (1912) and The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23) by Marcel Duchamp; and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (1936) by Salvador Dali. Other modern and contemporary styles represented include: the Ash Can school of American Realism, Mexican Modernism, Outsider Art (in French Art Brut), as well as works by African American artists.

Prints, Drawings & Photographs (c.1500-present)
This department - which contains the largest number of items (150,000) of any section of the museum - displays examples of printmaking (etchings, woodcuts), drawings, watercolours, gouache, posters, collage art, photomontage, photographs, and photogravures. It is especially strong in the areas of Old Master Italian drawings and Old Master prints, as well as American prints dating from the 1930s and 1940s. Latin America and Japan are also well represented. Another unique exhibit is the Ars Medica Collection of medical and pharmaceutical prints, and posters. The collection of fine art photography includes nearly 30,000 prints, with significant holdings of work by Paul Strand (1890-1976), Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), and other important fine art photographers.

Arms & Armour
This department features the Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Collection, bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1976. It includes European arms and armour spanning several centuries, such as Plate and mail armour, swords, daggers, firearms, shields, crossbows, and equestrian equipment.

Asian Art (c.2,000 BCE - present)
The Philadelphia Museum's magnificent Asian art collection includes paintings, sculpture and ancient pottery (from China, Japan, and India), including important series of miniatures from India and hanging paintings from Nepal and Tibet; decorative arts, notably a large holding of Chinese pottery, Japanese porcelain and similar Korean art; a number of rare Persian and Turkish carpets, as well as scrolls, crystal, mosaic art, and architecture from all parts of Asia.

Costume & Textiles
This section, consisting of about 30,000 objects, is one of the oldest and largest fabric exhibits in America. It embraces woven and printed fabrics, embroidery and lace, outstanding American quilts and coverlets, as well as Middle Eastern and Asian textiles. One of the most popular items is the original wedding dress worn by Grace Kelly of Philadelphia at her marriage to Prince Rainier, when she became Princess Grace of Monaco.

Dutch Ceramics
The Philadelphia Museum holds a huge range of Dutch ceramics, including tiles, Delft earthenware, and ornamented porcelain dating from the 16th- to the 21st-century.

All these works make it one of the best art museums in America.

• For details of the development of painting and sculpture, see: History of Art.
• For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.

Art Types
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