|One of Dr. Barnes' "ensembles" contrasts a cozy family portrait by Renoir with a painting by Cézanne of nudes in a hostile landscape|
|Dr. Albert C. Barnes as painted by Giorgio de Chirico|
Under the tutelage of the educator John Dewey, who became a friend, Barnes developed his own methods of education. There would be no mind-numbing curatorial explanations in his galleries. He wanted his visitors to look, not to read. Barnes stipulated in his will that his collection was to remain exactly as it was at the time of his death and that of his wife, Laura. Nothing was to be loaned or moved.
Dr. Barnes was killed in an automobile accident on July 24, 1951. Laura died in April 1966. For the ensuing 40 or so years, the Barnes collection remained sequestered in Merion with comparatively few visitors and insufficient funds to maintain the building and the grounds of the doctor's estate. But the legal wrangling necessary to break Barnes' will and move the collection to Center City Philadelphia was intense.
|The Barnes Foundation building|
Each gallery has been outfitted with benches where visitors can sit comfortably and meditate on the art. That's what the doctor wanted — an educational and emotional experience based on observing shape, color, line, spatial arrangement and content transcending the work of any one artist or period — each piece reflecting the others on that wall and in that room in what Dr. Barnes called "ensembles."
The guiding hand remains Dr. Barnes' own. He saw the connections in the art that he owned. It soon becomes apparent that the reason he wanted nothing moved was that the galleries themselves were his art.
The new Barnes Foundation building is on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, right next to the Rodin Museum, which has the largest collection of Rodin's work outside of Paris, and down the hill from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, making Philadelphia a must-see destination for any art lover.
Admission to the Barnes Foundation collection is still by timed ticket, but tickets are easy to come by now. No one will be turned away.