The Barnes Foundation is without a doubt one of the preeminent cultural experiences in Philadelphia.
Founded in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, a chemist and a passionate art collector, his legendary collection moved to the Parkway in a controversial move in 2012. Barnes was fortunate to live during a time when many art icons (Picasso, Degas, Modigliani, Matisse and others) were still relatively unknown. His friendship with Paris-based art collectors Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as art dealer Paul Guillaume, helped him begin his art collection. For Barnes an important facet of understanding art was the education behind it, so his foundation also served (and continues to serve) as a school to educate the public about art.
Today the Barnes collection is one of the largest in the world and is comprised of more than 2,500 objects (with more than 8,000 paintings). The paintings are estimated to be worth $25 billion with many of the pieces of art by major impressionist and modernist painters. Looking at the collection by numbers alone is truly impressive — there are 181 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 69 by Paul Cézanne, 59 by Henri Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, 21 by Chaim Soutine, 18 by Henri Rousseau, 16 by Amedeo Modigliani, 11 by Edgar Degas, 7 by Vincent van Gogh, and six by Georges Seurat.
The museum originally was located in Lower Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia. The Barnes was propelled into the national spotlight as it made the transition from Lower Merion to the parkway. A two-year legal battle due to financial issues preempted the museum’s move to Philadelphia. The Barnes, now located on the Benjamin Franklin parkway, opened on May 19, 2012 in a new building that offers many modern and unique touches such as reclaimed wood from Coney Island. If you are looking for an enriching cultural experience, this is definitely not to be missed.