|Rousseau, "Bouquet of Flowers"|
“The artist must open our eyes to what unaided we could not see.” That statement was one of Barnes' touchstones for collecting art, and history has certainly vindicated him. As Barry Schwabsky wrote in The Nation:
“It’s hard to remember now, when any prudent portfolio of investments includes contemporary art—and the more extreme, the better—that buying the works of avant-garde artists once seemed even madder than making it, and this long after the deaths of pioneers like Van Gogh and Rousseau. Albert Barnes was one of those extreme eccentrics, and he discovered just how naïve he was in 1923 when he exhibited part of his collection—works by Soutine, Modigliani, Matisse and others—at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The local papers deemed it a scandal, and medical authorities thought the art worthy of the insane. From then on, Barnes was at war with almost any person or institution that claimed cultural authority in his hometown….
|Rousseau, "Monkeys and Parrot in the Virgin Forest |
(Singes et perroquet dans la forêt vierge)" c. 1905–1906
|Van Gogh, "Still Life"|
Van Gogh, "The Smoker"
Many of the paintings I saw at the Barnes revealed familiar artists in a new light; for example, a quotidian domestic scene by Manet ("La Ligne"), a jewel-like portrait by Monet ("Mme Monet Embroidering"), and a mythological subject by Cezanne ("Leda and the Swan").
Further reading: Amedeo Modigliani: Nudes and Portraits
Images © 2012 The Barnes Foundation