Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and academy in the U.S., was first known as the Columbianum, when the first art exhibition was held there in 1795. Promoted by 71 of Philadelphia’s leading citizens including painter Charles Peale, sculptor William Rush, Charles Biddle, and George Clymer, the Academy was established in 1876. Privately endowed, it houses over 2,000 pieces of art including the collections of Temple, Gibson, and John Frederick Lewis. Designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt, the present building at 118 N. Broad Street was fully restored in 1976 and is now a national landmark. From an exterior of red and black brick, bas-relief, and floral motifs to interior walls studded with gold rosettes, banisters of mahogany and bronze, and a blue ceiling of silver stars, the Historic Landmark Building stands as an example of Victorian Gothic architecture at its best.

The Museum houses a rich, diverse selection of art in America from the 1760’s to the present, in addition to student and teaching materials used by the Academy. There is a well-kept balance between historical and contemporary art, featuring colonial masters such as Feke, Copley, and West, and the more modern works and abstracts by Diebenkorn, O’Keefe, and Rothko. The Academy owns approximately 1800 famous paintings including Benjamin West’s Treaty with the Indians, Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (The Lansdowne Portrait), and Winslow Homer’s Fox Hunt. From 1811 to 1969, the Museum presented annual art exhibitions and added significant items to their collections. The Director of the Museum from 1892 to 1905, Harrison Morrison, acquired paintings by well-known artists including Thomas Eakins, Edmund Tarbell, Winslow Homer, and Cecilia Beaux; many of these artists were founders, studied, or taught at the Academy. Other permanent exhibits display 19th century art by Cassatt, Whistler, and Chase, and the early 20th century works of famous artists such as Sully, Sloan, Luks, and Henri. Artists skilled in the figurative tradition such as Wyeth, Marsh, and Hopper are also well represented in collections throughout the Museum. Over 300 objects are on exhibit in the sculpture gallery that includes portrait busts, marble, bronze, stone, and wood by famous sculptors such as William Rush, George Segal, Alexander Caldwell, Red Grooms, and Joseph Alexis Bailly.

Thomas Eakins, a former student, later returned to the Academy to teach and revise the 4-year curriculum that Academy students follow today. The first two years are spent learning the basics of drawing, painting, sculpture, and lithography, followed by two years of independent study under the guidance of faculty and visiting artists.
Students of the Academy can enroll in several programs to get their Certificate, and they are also eligible to apply for a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, giving them an Ivy League degree and a Fine Arts diploma. If desired, they can continue their education in the Master of Fine Arts program or a Post Baccalaureate program of additional studio work or training in a different medium at the Academy. The School of Fine Arts is now located at 128 N. Broad Street in the Samuel Hamilton building.

Recent exhibits include Eakins’ masterpiece The Gross Clinic, which is currently on display in the Historic Landmark Building, along with anatomical casts and drawings by Eakins and selected students, all reflecting the artist’s interest in the relationship of anatomy and art. This exhibit is on a rotating basis between the Academy and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Other rotating exhibits have included works by Charles Burns, Jeremy Blake, Mary Judge, Nan Goldin, and Elizabeth Leister. The Academy has also presented sculpture by Do-Ho-Suh, an African American art collection, a gift of Harold and Ann Sorgenti, and Ellen Harvey’s unique, yet startling, installation of Mirror. This exhibit was designed with 12’ x 9’ mirrors of 16 panels each on the four walls of the Rotunda to reflect an illuminated view of the interior, as the artist sees it. At the conclusion of an hour-long video, the mirrors shatter and the Rotunda seems to have deteriorated and been transformed into an aging Gothic ruin. Other collections on display include the ink on paper drawings of Laylah Ali, and a future exhibit of paintings and objects by H. C. Westermann. The Museum also sponsors annual exhibitions by students of the Academy, awards scholarships, and presents lectures by visiting artists and curators,

Museum Hours: Tuesday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays and legal holidays.
Admission: Adults – $7.00, seniors and students with ID – $6.00, $5.00 — ages 5 to 18.
Museum Tours: Free with admission. 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. weekdays, 12 Noon and 1:00 p.m. weekends.
Museum Store: Portfolio open 7 days a week, 10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m., except Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.
Academy Admission Office Hours: Monday — Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ph: 215-972-7625.

(Discounted Parkway facilities nearby. Handicap accessible and assistance available.)

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