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Mar 292012

The Barnes Collection. It’s not just a bunch of pictures on a wall. Tut tut. The entire collection  itself is a work of art.

The Barnes Collection is a private art gallery and school near Philadelphia. It is one of the most EPIC art collections in the world with a value of over $30 Billion.

By the way, did I mention that it was stolen?

The original location for Barnes Collection in Lower Merion Pennsylvania


“The Barnes Foundation would attack the enemies of intelligence and imagination in art, whether or not those enemies are protected by financial power or social prestige!”

Dr. Albert C. Barnes

Dr. Albert Barnes by Giorgio de Chirico

Dr. Albert Barnes was an American self made millionaire and art collector. He founded the Barnes Foundation, an educational institution that housed his private collection of art. A collection that is considered the most valuable and important collection of Post Impressionist and early Modernist art of all time.

Inside the Barnes Collection.

The paintings in the Barnes collection are so important that they are the envy of every major art museum in the world. The Louvre, MOMA, The Metropolitan, The Guggenheim, The Getty, all wish they could have a fraction of the works in the Barnes. e

Within a few years Barnes’s collection grew to house 181 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 69 by Paul Cézanne, (There are more Cézannes in the Barnes than there are in the entire city of Paris!) 59 by Henri Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, 21 by Chaim Soutine, 18 by Henri Rousseau, 16 by Amedeo Modigliani, 11 by Edgar Degas, 7 by Vincent Van Gogh, and 6 by Georges Seurat.
In addition, the collection holds numerous other masters, including Giorgio de Chirico, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Paul Gauguin, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet, Jean Hugo, Claude Monet, Maurice Utrillo, William Glackens, Charles Demuth, and Maurice Prendergast. the concentration of these artistic masters is unrivaled minions!

Along with the paintings the Barnes collection also holds a variety of African artworks; ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art; and American and European furniture, decorative arts and metalwork.


Dr. Albert Barnes and his collection.


Barnes had a very good eye for spotting great art and used it well! Both the quantity and quality of the pieces in the collection is unbelievable. In 2009 this phoned in painting “The Fields” by Van Gogh sold for 35 million at Sotheby’s. This is one of Van Gogh’s lesser paintings and NOT part of the Barnes Collection. Barnes would have passed this piece up with no hesitation. As Van Gogh paintings go this one sucks.

Van Gogh “The Fields”

Don’t believe me that Van Gogh painted stinkers? Compare it to the Postman in the Barnes collection! None of the pieces in the Barnes collection are stinkers. They are all representative of the artist’s best work.

Van Gogh “The Postman”

In 1923 a public showing of Barnes’ collection proved was too avant-garde for the Art Establishment at the time. The critics ripped the show apart.  The press claimed “This is not art. But primitive incoherent scribbles.”
Barnes was furious at them for their ignorance. So he  snubbed the Establishment of Philadelphia by placing his collection in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion. Barnes’ passion was for the art. What mattered to him was educating  students in his unique vision not bringing in slack jawed tourists.  So Barnes set out restrictions on attendance and forbid paintings to loaned out to other institutions.

His stubborn individualism earned him enemies among the Philadelphia social and political elite. It also  got him many die hard loyal followers.

“The Peasants” Pablo Picasso

Barnes died in 1951 and in his his will he gave control of the collection to trustees of Lincoln University,the first African-American university in the United States. He also also expressed  in his will that the collection should “never be loaned, sold or otherwise deposed.”

The Barnes Foundation has been under attack  by outside special interests for the past 50 years, and recently by the Barnes trustees themselves.

State and Local Politicians, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The trustees, and other so called philanthropic organizations have teamed up and seized the opportunity to exploit the collection in  much more profitable ways that go against the wishes of Barnes. They have chosen to sell out  the integrity of the foundation.

Though he has been reduced to a name on a collection, he is still the main character in this story. Sadly he and his last wishes have been lost in the drama that has gone down since he died. Look at this crazy story!  We have  strong characters, honor, scandals, racial tensions, political intrigue, greed,  art vs. commerce and philanthropy as corrupt big business.
Despite all of the B.S. , we must not forget that this is the story of Dr Albert Barnes who has been dead for over 50 years. The more time passes the easier it has become to forget about him.


Below is a small sample of some pieces from the Barnes Collection.

“Camille au métier” Claude Monet


“Le bonheur de vivre” Henri Matisse

“Die Modelle” Georges Seurat

“The Card Players ” Paul Cézanne

On May 19, 2012, the Barnes will unveil its new Philadelphia home. In rooms reflective of the intimate layout and unique character of the original Merion galleries. Go here for more info.


Click the pic  for a Virtual Tour of the Original Barnes Collection.



Albert Coombs Barnes (January 2, 1872 – July 24, 1951) was an American chemist and art collector. With the fortune made from the development of the antiseptic, gonorrhea drug Argyrol, he founded the Barnes Foundation, an educational institution based on his private collection of art.
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