Philadelphia Museum of Art

Over a million people each year visit the third largest museum in the U.S., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street in Fairmount Park. Established in 1876 as the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, it opened to the public on May 10, 1877. Construction of a new facility began in 1919, and the name was changed to the Pennsylvania Museum of Art upon completion in 1928. Julian Abele, a virtual unknown and the only African American in the architectural firm of Horace Trumbauer, designed the impressive Greek style of architecture. In 1938, after Trumbauer’s death, the name was changed to the Philadephia Museum of Art, and Abele continued to work on the interior through the 40’s and 50’s. He eventually became head of the Trumbauer firm, and is recognized today as the first major African American architect in the U.S. The Museum also administers the Rodin Museum and will manage the archives and exhibits in the new Perelman building, which is due to open after Labor Day in 2007.

Over 200,000 works of art in 200 galleries include paintings by the great European masters such as Picasso, Duchamp, Cezanne, Dali, Chagall, Miro, and Matisse. Collections of Asian art dating from 2500 B.C. to the present day represent the culture and diversity of China, Japan, Tibet, India, Korea, Persia, Turkey, and Pakistan. The Museum also features American modernists such as O’Keefe, Johns, and LeWitt, along with many self-taught African American and Mexican artists. In addition to paintings and sculpture, collections of 18th and 19th century furniture and silver by Pennsylvania craftsmen, Tucker porcelains, and Dutch ceramics from the 12th to the 20th centuries are also housed in the Museum. .

The Museum devotes an entire room to the artwork of Thomas Eakins, the renowned Philadelphia painter, photographer, sculptor, and educator. Eakins was far ahead of his time, painting people in everyday settings and portraying nudity such as seen in the Swimming Hole, without reservation. Firmly entrenched in the study of human anatomy and extreme in his liberal views on what is acceptable behavior, his art caused a stir, to say the least. Eakins’ painting, The Gross Clinic, is perhaps one of the most controversial in its startling realism, but remains the greatest portrayal of a medical procedure and a surgeon at work. His photography, as well, was exceptional in his ability to capture the human figure in motion. His superb artistry failed to capture the ultra-conservative members of Philadelphia society, however, and Eakins, like so many other great artists, was not given credit for his mastery until after his death in 1916.

Unique attractions at the Museum include the von Kienbusch Armor Collection of several centuries of European armor, a gift by the collector to the Museum in 1976.
Galleries representing specific periods in history include a medieval cloister, a Japanese teahouse, an Indian Hindu temple, a Pennsylvania Dutch kitchen, and a Chinese scholar’s study room. Current exhibitions include 18th century Japanese ink paintings, the graphic modern art of William Johnson, miniature paintings of Indian animals, pop art by Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Oldenberg, Tibetan ritual arts, and the works of Ellsworth Kelly. New acquisitions at the Museum include a sculpture of a Death Cart representing the 19th century art of the Penitente religious groups of New Mexico and southern Colorado, Chinese funeral procession figures, 17th century silver caskets, and Guiseppe Mazziuoli’s sculpture of the Death of Cleopatra. In addition to gallery tours, lectures, films, and classes, other programs planned by the Museum include the annual Craft Show, November 8-11 in 2007 and a special exhibit of Frida Kahlo in February 2008.

Extensive restoration of the gables, the roof, columns, and exterior has been ongoing for the past few years. Another major expansion, to be designed by the notable Frank Gehry, was announced in October 2006. The project is expected to take at least 10 years to complete at a cost of over $500 million. An 80,000 square foot gallery to be built beneath the steps will feature contemporary sculpture, Asian art, and other special exhibits.

Hours: Open Tuesday — Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Introductory walks daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Every Friday evening from 5 to 8:45 p.m., is Art After 5, with art and entertainment. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and July 4th. Ph: 215-684-7500 (recording); 215-763-8100 (other info).
Admission: Adults – $12.00, Seniors 62+ – $9.00, Children 13 to 18 & Students w/ID – $8.00. Members free. Sunday — pay what you wish all day, special activities for kids.
(Note: General admission does not include the special Renoir Landscapes exhibition, from October 4 2007 to January 6, 2008.
Dining: Museum restaurant, ground floor, Lunch Tuesday — Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Dinner Friday, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sunday champagne brunch, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Balcony Café, 1st floor, west entrance, Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Museum Café, ground floor, Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Parking: Limited on street around the Museum. Eakins Oval Parking: Monday — Thursday, Saturday & Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Rates: $7.00 up to 6 hours, $10 over 6. Upper Terrace: $5.00 — nonmembers, $4.00 — members. Handicap accessible parking entrance on upper terrace. Wheelchairs available free at entrances, elevators at each floor. Gift shop on premises.

(Note: Whether it can be considered art in the true sense of the word, or not, many tourists pause at the statue of Rocky Balboa (from the movie) that stands at the foot of the Rocky footprints leading up the steps to the entrance of the Museum.)

Comments are closed.