#LaPresse: “Barnes, the iconoclastic museum of Philadelphia | Mathieu Perreault “
Born in a working class environment, Albert Barnes made his fortune at the beginning of the twentieth e century with a drug that prevented blindness in babies whose the mother had gonorrhea. Married to a wealthy New York heiress, he was sometimes looked down upon by the Philadelphia middle class, according to Deirdre Maher, director of communications for the Foundation. "From these experiences he kept the belief that anyone could appreciate art and that it had to be an aesthetic and non-intellectual experience. "
Albert Barnes has arranged the rooms of his huge collection, bought in Paris by his childhood friend William Glackens, became a painter, according to his own taste. Impressionists rub shoulders with works from the Middle Ages. And in a room, Barnes had installed two buxom Renoir ladies on each side of a wall, above wide chairs adapted to their ample butt.
Elsewhere, a candlestick of twisted wood from the French countryside responds to the motif of a dress on a Cezanne. Barnes's other conviction: the paintings were to be identified only by their author and their name, without date or explanatory note.
Albert Barnes died in a car accident in 1951, at 79 years old. In his will, he left US $ 10 million to the Barnes Foundation, which was to leave the paintings exactly as they were in the galleries, never lend them to other museums, and give affordable art and horticulture classes at the Barnes Foundation. the population
By the end of the 1980s, the Merion villa outside of Philadelphia was to be renovated and only a handful of visitors could admire Barnes's masterpieces every day for lack of an air-conditioning system.
The Foundation had to fight in court against the wealthy residents of Merion, who wanted to keep this artistic gem close at hand, before they could relocate to the center of Philadelphia, against the wishes of Albert Barnes. The Foundation's new museum opened in 2012 and will celebrate its fifth anniversary in October with lectures, including one on respect for the past, by the architects who signed the museum.
Here are the highlights of a visit to the collection.
The halls of the new museum were organized much like those of Merion, including a large central hall with a triptych in its vault commissioned in 1930 by Albert Barnes to Henri Matisse, Dance . A gallery on the second floor has been arranged to observe the triptych of the French artist.
There is also another masterpiece by Matisse, The Joy of Life . Painted in 1905-1906, this painting originally belonged to the American writer Gertrude Stein before being bought for $ 4000 by Barnes during the First World War.
"THE AMERICAN RENOIR"
"The American Renoir" is the nickname of William Glackens, the childhood friend of Albert Barnes who referred him to French artists then little known, Barnes was able to acquire works for bites of bread (He was the first collector of Chaim Soutine).
The Barnes Foundation also owns some 40 works by Glackens, including some portraits of the Barnes family. Glackens was part of an American school of interest to small people, the Ash Can School, a name then synonymous with "garbage."
In each room of the museum, many iron objects make up friezes around the canvases. "Barnes loved metal art from the Middle Ages," said Deirdre Maher, director of communications for the Foundation. Many farm tools as well as more or less decorative portions of doors are on the menu.
The arboretum of the original museum in Merion is still open and maintained. There are trails in the woods, tiered gardens and different species that come to know by guided tours. "Barnes was popular education, so we still have horticulture classes, the passion of his wife Laura, in addition to art classes in our new downtown building," says Deirdre Maher.
The Merion Arboretum is on a Philadelphia subway line. Some courses last only three or four weeks, once a week, and there are more intensive one-week courses in the summer.
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