The Barnes holds an exemplary collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with many works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings, African sculpture, American paintings and decorative arts; antiquities from the Mediterranean and Asia; and Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles.
This was Dr. Albert C. Barnes' collection, and for many years it was displayed at the former Barnes mansion in the suburb of Merion. Dr. Barnes' bequest stipulated that his carefully-considered display plan -- based on his theories about how people looked at and learned from art -- was never to be changed. So, when the modern facility was built in the downtown "Cultural Corridor" of Philadelphia, the display galleries were constructed to replicate original rooms of the Barnes home in Merion.
Whether you go or not, The Architecture of the Barnes Foundation: Gallery in a Garden, Garden in a Gallery, provides a comprehensive description and behind-the-scenes look into the architectural evolution of the Barnes Foundation’s new building in downtown Philadelphia. In 2007, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects received the commission to design the new Barnes Foundation building, an enviable project that was surrounded both by controversy and the excitement of increasing access to one of America’s premier collections of post-impressionist art.
Also, The Barnes Foundation: Masterworks reflects Barnes’s educational and aesthetic approach: symmetrical “ensembles,” or wall compositions, combine works of different periods, mediums, cultures, and styles for the purpose of comparison and study. Large color plates, little-seen archival photographs, and numerous gatefolds illustrate 150 of the greatest hits of the collection and twenty gallery ensembles.
A series of 11 seven-foot-tall oil-on-canvas paintings