PHILADELPHIA, PA (AP).-
The Philadelphia Art Commission has unanimously approved architectural designs for a new Barnes Foundation
museum, virtually clearing the way for construction to begin as early as November.
The $200 million museum will house the multibillion-dollar art collection of Dr. Albert Barnes when it comes to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia.
The Barnes is slated to open in 2012.
The huge collection of paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso has been housed in a Paul Cret-designed gallery in Merion since 1925. It is moving from the suburbs after a years-long legal battle to keep it there.
Many opponents of relocating the collection attended Monday's hearing. Public comment was limited to the architectural design and not arguments about the move.
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." Located in a twelve-acre arboretum, the Foundation is home to one of the world's largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Renoir and Modigliani, as well as important examples of African sculpture. The Gallery and Arboretum are open to the public (reservations are required), and courses in aesthetics and horticulture are available through the education department.
Born in a working class Philadelphia neighborhood in 1872, Barnes received a B.S. Degree from Central High School in Philadelphia and, at the age of twenty, his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He also studied chemistry and pharmacology at the University of Berlin, and at the Ruprecht-Karls-Univerität in Heidelberg, where he befriended German scientist Herman Hille.
Back in America, Hille and Barnes developed a new antiseptic silver compound, Argyrol, and formed the firm of Barnes & Hille in 1902. In 1907, Barnes bought out his partner and in 1908 established the A. C. Barnes Company in Philadelphia. The success of this endeavor provided Dr. Barnes with a sizable fortune.
Barnes's extensive personal studies in psychology, philosophy and art - particularly his reading of John Dewey, George Santayana, and William James - led him to form his own theories about art and education. Combining his educational concepts and his compassion for the working man with his burgeoning interest in the arts, Barnes initiated educational seminars and hung paintings by William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast in his Argyrol factory to be studied and discussed by his workers. His first formal classes in art appreciation were held at the factory for the benefit of his employees.
In 1918, Dr. Barnes attended John Dewey's seminars at Columbia University to study the scientific method in education. Dewey and Barnes quickly became close friends and collaborators. Dewey's influence and a desire to provide nondiscriminatory access to art and education led Barnes to create the Barnes Foundation in 1922, naming Dewey as the Foundation's first director of education in 1923. A new force had entered the art world: a self-made man with substantial financial and intellectual resources, combative intensity, relentless curiosity, a keen eye for art, and a deeply-rooted respect for the common man.
As the setting for the Foundation, Barnes and his wife Laura purchased a twelve-acre arboretum in Merion, near Philadelphia, owned by lawyer, Civil War veteran, and horticulturist Joseph Lapsley Wilson. Wilson served as the director of the Arboretum and as a Foundation trustee until his death in 1928.
Barnes hired the noted French architect Paul Philippe Cret (architect of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Rodin Museum) to design the Gallery and attached residence (now the administration building), which were completed in 1925. He commissioned bas-reliefs by the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, and tile work using African designs and themes by Enfield Pottery and Tile Works, to adorn the building.
By 1929, Barnes had sold his company and devoted himself full-time to the Foundation and collecting art of all types. He chose and arranged the works in "wall ensembles" in the Gallery to illustrate for the Foundation's students the visual elements and aesthetic traditions he felt were evident in all art forms across periods and cultures. For the rest of his life, Dr. Barnes worked relentlessly to expand his collection and further the educational work of the Foundation.
Barnes was particularly noted not only for his collection of Modern art, but also for his early and vigorous collecting of African art. While his contemporaries collected African art as examples of "primitive" cultural artifacts, Barnes was outspoken in his view of African art as a major art form that was at least as aesthetically important as other major art movements and traditions. As a child, Barnes had attended African American camp revival meetings with his mother, who was a devout Methodist. It was at those religious retreats that Barnes developed an appreciation for African American culture, especially music and creative expression. In addition to collecting African art, Barnes was seriously involved in African American social and cultural issues, and supportive of African-American artists.
In 1940, Barnes purchased an 18th-century farmhouse in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which he named "Ker-Feal," or, "House of Fidčle," after his favorite dog. He added onto the house while maintaining the original center section, and filled the house with antique furniture, American ceramics, and other decorative objects. While the Barneses used the house as a weekend retreat, Ker-Feal was also intended, as Barnes stated in his will, as "a living museum of art and as a botanical garden to be used as part of the educational purposes of The Barnes Foundation in both the art and horticulture programs."
In 1940, Laura Barnes established the Arboretum School to provide students of horticulture, botany and landscape architecture the opportunity to study under top-notch teachers and work directly with living plant material. Arboretum School teachers have included professors from the University of Pennsylvania and other noted institutions. John M. Fogg (1898-1982), professor of botany and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, taught at the school for over sixty years, and served as director of the Arboretum from 1966 to 1979. Providing a wide range of botanical study material, the selection of plants in the Arboretum is also guided by such aesthetic concerns as form, texture, and color.