The mission of the Barnes Foundation, dating back to its founding in 1922 is “the promotion of the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts.” It is the best place to check out Philadelphia fine art if you find yourself in Pennsylvania.
Furthering its mission, the Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA) promotes appreciation of the arts and horticultural science through the personal collections of Albert and Laura Barnes.
The richness of what you will find at the museum is indescribable. There is a specific concentration of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings which is larger than ones found in any other art museums (181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes and 46 Picassos). These are complemented with Asian and African art and sculptures.
Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951) devoted his fortune (made from the invention of his Argyrol drug) to amassing the collection with every item being the result of his specific taste and foundation.
Owned by the Barnes Foundation, the collection was stipulated to an “indenture of trust” legal arrangement where everything was to remain the same during Barnes’ lifetime. The collection was housed in a small building in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion, PA. After Barnes’ death in 1951, his will reconfirmed the terms which stated that the collection could not be moved but also that no Philadelphia art establishment could take over the collection.
The following years resulted in legal battles as a result of the endowment being eaten up and this eventually led to a conglomerate of Philadelphia art institutions and angel investors coming up with the necessary monies needed but with the requirement that the art be moved to Philadelphia.
Currently, the collection is housed in an enlarged complex on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, relatively close to the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
If you are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, Friday nights at the Barnes Foundation are particularly recommended. It’s advised to reserve tickets in advance and you can have dinner on-site at the museum’s Garden Restaurant which offers a special Friday martini menu. More information is available at BarnesFoundation.org