Thursday 7 November
After all the excitement of a day yesterday feasting on the rich history of this fine city, we decided to do as we did in Boston and visit the glorious art venues of Philadelphia. Given our location it turned into a matter of a long day of walking between world-class art museums. We headed out around 9am on an overcast and slightly cold morning to our first stop – the Auguste Rodin Museum. This museum housed the most sculptures of Rodin outside of France, including the one everyone knows – the Thinker. What I didn’t know was that this was originally meant to be a small figure atop Rodin’s Gates of Hell. It is supposed to be the figure of Dante reflecting upon the abyss below. However, he decided to also remove the figure, enlarge it and have it as a separate piece – the one the world knows and loves today.
After a moving tour of this museum – we head up the road to the Philadelphia Art Museum. This museum is perhaps more famous for the steps leading up to the front door – for these are the steps used by the character Rocky as part of his training drills to become a better boxer, in the movies Rocky 1- to whatever! Every day thousands run up and down these steps – I wondered how many actually made it past the doors to view what is truly a fine collection of art on par with many of the world’s best galleries. I of course went straight to the impressionists, post-impressionists and even ventured into Cubism and early 20th century material. The museum hosts a great American section as well as a fine European collection 1000 – 1500, and 1500 – 1850. The early time period of this art is of course religious in nature and I was in my element.
After an exhilarating number of hours spent reflecting upon great treasures we left and walked to the Barnes foundation museum of art. Assembled by Albert Barnes between 1912 and 1951 the gallery is home to a world-class collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings, with especially deep holdings in Renoir (the most in a private collection in the world), Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso. I was as my wife would put it – a pig in heaven! The collection also includes examples of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture and wrought-iron metalwork. The experience was unlike any other art gallery I have had the great fortune to visit around the world. The art was hung to Dr. Barnes instructions to create what he called ‘ensembles’ arranged according to light, line, colour and space. So we found paintings by van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso hanging next to ordinary household items – a door hinge, a yarn spinner. It sounds horrific yet it does work. By late afternoon, our brains had had enough and we called it quits and walked back to hotel, exhausted but sated, filled to the brim with so much art and beauty.
Today marked the halfway point of our journey and we are off to Washington D.C. in the morning. So far, so good and we are really enjoying our travels, and looking forward to visiting the nation’s capital.
A beautiful piece that caught my eye titled: Cathedral