Monday, June 7, 2010

Artsy Babies Love Impressionism.

As a mother's/father's day present to my parents and ourselves, we made reservations to visit the Barnes Foundation. And Sunday was our lucky day.

A little background if you wish . . .

What is the Barnes Foundation?

"The Barnes Foundation houses one of the finest collections of nineteenth and twentieth-century French painting in the world. An extraordinary number of masterpieces by Renoir, C├ęzanne and Matisse provide a depth of work by these artists unavailable elsewhere. Established as an educational institution the Barnes carries out its mission teaching classes in its galleries and Arboretum. The Barnes welcomes visitors and students throughout the year."

Basically, this dude collected an insane amount of beautiful paintings (many of them by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, and Degas) and he displayed them in a home-setting amidst other amazing works of art, metal, bench, mask, or sculpture. After he died, craziness ensued and continues to ensue, but for now, the works are on display in a building on his home grounds.

What is so special about this collection?

Other than the simply overwhelming amount of acclaimed works, Barnes was clever in his presentation. He mixed time periods, etc. so that everything was presented as he felt was most aesthetically and thematically appropriate. The result? A breathtaking display of artwork and a truly overwhelming experience for visitors and viewers of the collection. There's also a garden and arboretum on the premises. (The photos in this post are from the Barnes Foundation garden.)

There is a huge ongoing dispute over the fact that this amazing collection is being transported from the home/museum in which it is currently residing (within a residential neighborhood in Lower Merion, PA) to a newly-constructed more accessible building on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, PA. (Having visited the Barnes twice in the past eight years, I do find myself incapable of understanding how the same majesty and timelessness of the visit and the overall ambience can be duplicated in another place.) Anyway, you can read about all that hubbadubdub here and even more in-depth here if you like.

Our Visit

So we visited the Barnes. And it was breathtaking. I must reiterate how happy I am that my husband and I have decided to get out with Gabriel rather than not. It took some extra care keeping a baby low volume in an art gallery, but we definitely received many more positive comments (as in, "he's beautiful," or, "how wonderful it is you are starting him with art so early,") than dirty looks (I'm not sure I noticed one actually). I am starting to get better at breastfeeding in public-- I don't have to hide in a corner to be discrete anymore. I guess after almost eight months, I should be getting the art of public nursing down, right? Besides, Barnes had at least three statues in the upstairs featuring breastfeeding so I think it was welcomed there. I'll keep telling myself that anyway.

Gabe was more engaged by the light fixtures than the artwork, but the occasional painting made him giggle. Gabe loved the garden. And he also loves his new book, Sharing with Renoir. It is quite appropriate after having been to the Barnes Foundation (Barnes owned 181 Renoir paintings at the time of his death. 181. I cannot fathom owning 181 anything. Well, maybe 181 cloth diapers would be nice...). He was given one of this book's sisters, Quiet Time with Cassatt, by my parents awhile ago. I love art so much-- I almost went to college for art, but I instead went the music route and then switched to writing (jack of all trades, master of what?)-- so it is very much up my alley to share my passion with the little guy.

We're hoping to get to Philadelphia's First Friday (all the galleries, especially in Olde City, are open for free in the evening, often debuting new collections) in July if it is not too hot so I'll keep you posted!


  1. I love that you're starting so early with him, sharing your love. So neat! Is Gabe a redhead? I have four of those -- all boys!