In celebration of the debut of the Barnes Foundation in its new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is presenting PAFA and Dr. Barnes, on view April 7 through July 8, exploring the connections between the Pennsylvania Academy and Dr. Albert Barnes. This exhibition will feature works from the permanent collection that relate to Barnes’s tastes and philosophy, as well as works by his friends (such as William J. Glackens), and items from the PAFA Archives.
It was at PAFA in April 1923 that Barnes first revealed the richness of his modern European art collection to the American public. Among the factors that led Barnes to allow 75 paintings and sculptures from his collection to be shown at PAFA was the presence of progressive faculty members such as Arthur B. Carles.
Barnes had written to Carles in 1921 after viewing an avant-garde PAFA exhibition showing “Later Tendencies in Art” congratulating “the liberal spirit of the officials of the Academy in opening their doors to what is the most real and vital movement to many, many people interested in art…your present show is the first real move to shake Philadelphia out of the lethargy which has been the reproach to us from artists and collectors of other cities…It’s a mighty fine thing for Philadelphia to give genuine artists of ability the opportunity to express themselves freely and without dictation from self-constituted authorities or conventional dogma and have those expressions viewed by the public for what they are worth. It is a positive step towards education and enlightenment in the proper meanings of those words.”
Two years later, he would revise his opinion about Philadelphia, rather than PAFA, in the wake of criticism of his collection.
PAFA’s installation will include letters, photographs and ephemera related to the 1923 exhibition and will feature present works of art that reveal links between PAFA and Barnes. “PAFA is pleased to present this exhibition which will add a rich historical context to the re-opening of the Barnes collection in Philadelphia, so close to where it was shown in 1923,” says Harry Philbrick, Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.
Among the artists included in PAFA and Dr. Barnes will be Arthur B. Carles, Charles Demuth, Henry McCarter, Horace Pippin, and a generous selection of works by William J. Glackens. According to Robert Cozzolino, PAFA’s Senior Curator and Curator of Modern Art who curated the installation: “The 1923 exhibition showed the broader art world how adventurous Barnes had been as a collector and the degree to which he was committed to connecting the public to modern art. It further revealed PAFA’s role in promoting modernism and exhibiting challenging and innovative art.”