Art Museums, Philadelphia USA

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Taken with a proper camera, the view down Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the top of the Rocky steps at Philadelphia Museum of Art

So far I have been to three of the city’s art museums; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum and Barnes Foundation.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the city’s main attractions. It houses works spanning many continents, cultures and times, and in two visits I still haven’t been able to see it all in the depth I would like to. The permanent galleries are European Art 1100-1500, 1500-1850, 1850-1900; Arms and Armor, Asian Art, American Art and Modern and Contemporary Art. I also went to a special International Pop Art exhibition on the second visit. The museum is home to work by famous artists such as Duchamp, Braque, Cezanne, Eakins, Van Gogh, Dali, Degas, Matisse, Rubens, West, Van Eyck and many more. In and amongst the rooms there are pieces situated in time period themed rooms, which form a nostalgic surrounding in which you can take yourself back in time thanks to the atmosphere the décor creates. This ranges from a 12th century French cloister to a Japanese tea house. Part of the attraction is the building itself, which is modelled after the ancient temples of Greece such as the Parthenon. But the most recognisable aspect is the ninety nine steps that lead up to the entrance, better known as the steps that Rocky Balboa runs up and poses at the top of in the film Rocky; and the accompanying triumphant statue of him is at the bottom of the steps. The main highlights for me though are the paintings which can only be fully appreciated in their presence; and not through my dictation.

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Taken with a proper camera, a miniature version of ‘The Thinker’ within ‘The Gates of Hell’ at Rodin Museum

Less than half a mile down Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Rodin Museum, which is home to the largest collection of sculptures by Augustine Rodin outside of his birthplace Paris, but casts of his sculptures can be found all over the world. Rodin is probably one of the most widely known sculptors and his work has made it beyond the art world into public consciousness. Among the most recognisable that are here at the museum in Philadelphia are The Thinker– a ruminating man with his chin resting on his hand and regularly used as an image signifying Philosophy; and The Gates of Hell– depicting the inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy. His approach can be summarised as human forms in a true to reality appearance, translating inner expression and emotion into external posture rather than narrative and decoration. His work also has the ability to demonstrate motion, as well as a feeling of retention of the sculptors crafting and handiwork. Underappreciated in his lifetime, his style is now considered to have been revolutionary for the time and remains today a beloved sculptor.

Finally, next door and couple of minutes’ walk away is the Barnes Foundation, which is a collection of art that was assembled and founded as a museum by Albert C. Barnes, a Philadelphian physician, chemist and art collector. Set in modern building and grounds, the work is laid out in the style of old fashioned galleries, with paintings scattered all over the walls in ensembles through a series of rooms. On display there are plenty of Renoirs, Cezannes and Matisses, along with much more including work by recognisable names such as Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Rousseau, Courbet, Titian and Picasso. Alongside the paintings are other artefacts Barnes collected for instance Pennsylvania Dutch furniture, African sculptures and Ming era Chinese art.

There is still one more place related to visual arts that I still haven’t visited yet which is a separate part of and in the vicinity of the Philadelphia Museum of Art called the Perelman building. This is home to permanent collections of photography, costumes, textiles and contemporary design; which should be interesting to see once I can get down there.

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