Did you know Saint Joseph’s University’s campus is home to the original Barnes Foundation? In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes and his wife Laura Leggett Barnes bought the mansion located on Latches Lane behind McShain Residence Center. It was in this house that the original galleries were created. In 2012, the Barnes Foundation movedto the Ben Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia; however, The Barnes Foundation on Latches is still home to the Barnes Arboretum. For more information on these beautiful gardens see Brynn Maiden’s piece. 

Painting of Dr Barnes
Photo taken by Haley Brown

Overall, the new Barnes Foundation is an incredibly beautiful exhibit and an aesthetically pleasing experience. The wide variety of art is arranged in ways that are unique and allow it to shine. The foundation promotes education so viewers have different ways to learn about both Dr. Barnes’ legacy and the timeless masterpieces housed there. With multiple forms of art from the classics like Henri Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gough, to sculptures, and silk prints, there is a piece for everyone to fall in love with. The new building is state of the art and the outside is just as beautiful as the galleries inside which enhances the overall viewing experience. 

Symmetry balanced by metal fixtures is clearly seen in his galleries
Photo taken by Haley Brown

Here are EIGHT historical facts that you probably didn’t know about The Barnes Foundation

  1. Dr. Barnes went to med school at UPenn. He became a millionaire after he helped create the antiseptic Argyrol
  2. While Barnes was an artistic genius he was also incredibly controlling, eccentric, and likely suffered from crippling OCD. 
  3. Each gallery is arranged by light, color, and space. Not by artist or type of painting. 
  4. He also included random metal objects to add to the overall aesthetic experience of the gallery. 
  5. There are no labels under any of the paintings because Barnes did not want the viewer influenced by the piece’s history.
  6. In his will Barnes stated that when he died no new paintings were allowed to be added to the collection and they were not allowed to be moved even an inch from their original position
  7. This created much controversywhen the Barnes moved from Merion to Philly.
  8.  Henri Matisse created the only custom painting for the Barnes, a mural titled The Dance. It was built to fit in the archway of the first gallery.
The Dance by Henri Matisse
Photo taken by Haley Brown 

Below are some quotes from Deidre Maher, Director of Communications

What was the transition like, from the old building to the new building?

Through the transition from Merion to Philadelphia, the Barnes’s mission has remained constant and focused on education: to promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture. In our location in the heart of Philadelphia, we have been able to welcome 1.8 million people from all 50 states and 70 countries. We started a special exhibitions program, as well as many community programs which serve people from across the city and the region. In Merion, the Arboretum is thriving through our educational partnership with Saint Joseph’s University, which expands opportunities for both students and the surrounding community to engage in the horticulture education program, life sciences offerings, and fine arts programming.

2.What is something that not many people know about the Barnes Foundation?

In addition to the impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern masterwork paintings the Barnes is so well-known for, the Barnes is also home to an incredible collection of 125 African sculptures, masks, and tools. The Barnes was one of the first collections in the US to display objects from Africa as fine art, at a time when such works were typically presented as cultural artifacts in ethnographic museums. Dr. Barnes was a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance and some of the now canonical African American artists who were his contemporaries.

Red Madras Headdress by Henri Matisse
Photo taken by Haley Brown

3. What is your personal favorite painting from the gallery?

I love Henri Matisse’s Red Madras Headdress

If you’re interested in visiting the Barnes check out the link here 

The original Barnes Foundation
Photo Taken By Haley Brown

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