As many of you may have noticed, art museums are a love of mine when I travel. I tend to breeze through quickly – it’s rare that I find a piece I want to stop and look at for long – but I really enjoy the experience. Philadelphia art museums are truly world-class, and a couple stand out as real destination centerpieces for any art lover looking to travel.
Note: thank you to Visit Philly for providing me with a pass allowing for complimentary admission to these sights!
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The name may not be so original, but the Philadelphia Art Museum is impressive. Best known probably as the steps Rocky runs up, the collection inside is even better then the stunning building it’s housed inside.
In the past couple of years, I have visited the Met in New York, the Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid, and more. The PMA stands up there with any of them.
Most visitors will flock to the impressionist wing. After all, Philadelphia has more impressionist works than any city on Earth other than Paris thanks to the PMA and Barnes Foundation (see below). And flock they should. The works there are amazing, highlighted by this incredible Monet!
For those who enjoy Picasso, please tell me if you see either title figure in “Man with Guitar.”
Don’t stop downstairs with the European and American art, however daunting even these collections may be. Upstairs in the Asian art wing, you can find entire rooms transported to Philadelphia, including an Indian temple, Japanese tea house, and Chinese palace!
If the Rocky theme of the PMA is what drives you, when looking up from the base of the stairs, walk to your right and there is a statue of Rocky for photo opportunities.
The Museum also includes a couple of other buildings in one admission fee, like the next door Rodin Museum. I’d offer a photo here, but it was pouring rain and I was being soaked on my walk past the Rodin to the next Museum on the list.
The Barnes Foundation
The Philadelphia art scene is also home to the most insane private collection I’ve ever seen. Albert Barnes was one of the pioneers in generic prescription drugs, and an avid art collector. He especially loved the impressionists. The Barnes Foundation was born in 1922, and after having some financial difficulties being in Barnes’ hometown of Merion, it moved to Philadelphia in 2012.
In some museums, when one sees a painting by Renoir, it’s an exciting moment. Wow, a Renoir! Well, the Barnes Foundation is home to 181 of them. 181! At some point, I actually had the thought: ho hum, just another Renoir.
In addition, there are 69 works by Cezanne, 59 by Matisse, and 46 Picassos, among numerous other exciting pieces ranging from Van Gogh to Titian.
The collection is arranged in a non-typical way for a museum, crowded in rows on small walls. It is intimidating, overwhelming, and truly incredible.
If you are an art fan, you really must devote a day – or a week – to exploring the incredible world of Philadelphia art museums!