A few weeks ago my husband and I set aside two hours to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Little did we know that we'd make it through half of the collection in that amount of time. Therefore, I recommend that you consider devoting about three to four hours to see everything. The good news is that the Museum features several cafes onsite where you can take a break, grab a bite and give your feet a rest.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art was founded in 1876 and developed from collections exhibited in 1876 at the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park. The building, constructed of Minnesota Dolomite and modeled after ancient Greek temples, opened its doors in 1928.
Each year, the museum attracts approximately 800,000 visitors, with their website receiving 10 million page view annually. There are approximately 225,000 objects in the Museum, which features 15-20 special exhibitions each year.
For those who wish to reenact the Rocky scene by running up the 99 steps to get into the museum, I should note that the entrance is currently closed. I certainly didn't mind entering at the rear of the building, which is far less challenging to those of us who are out of shape.
Once inside, visitors will see the grand staircase and Saint-Gaudens' statue Diana. If it seems familiar, that might be because it was moved from New York's old Madison Square Garden.
(Diana, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, faces the grand staircase)
Two of the first paintings we encountered were influential in the art world...eventually. The oil on canvas pictured below was painted by Thomas Eakin. Titled, The Gross Clinic, it depicts Dr. Samuel Gross of Philadelphia operating on a patient, with Eakin sketching in the background. It was created specifically for Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition, was rejected and instead appeared at a U.S. Army field hospital exhibit. The rejection prompted an art critic to comment in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph: "There is nothing so fine in the American section of the Art Department of the Exhibition and it is a great pity that the squeamishness of the Selection Committee compelled the artist to find the place in the United States Hospital Building." Perhaps he was onto something. Today, the painting is recognized as one of the "greatest American paintings ever made."
(The Agnew Clinic, Thomas Eakins, 1889)
Other American collections include extensive holdings of Pennsylvania art and furniture, like the walnut desk below, designed by Philadelphia architect Frank Furness to look like one of his buildings.
(Horace Howard Furness Desk, 1871)
(Cabinet made by American Giuseppe Ferrari - born in Italy - 1874 -76)
Pennsylvania has been home to many German immigrants over the years, so it stands to reason that German Americans are well represented at the The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Below is a wardrobe (Kleidershrank) decorated with the owners name Georg Huber and the date it was made in sulfur inlay, a process in which molten lava is poured into carved channels.
(Wardrobe, 1779, Lancaster County)
Another gorgeous item I saw was this elaborately carved mahogany wine cooler seen below, made between 1825 and 1830, artist unknown.
(Mahagony wine cooler, 1825 - 1830)
(Bedstead, 1825-1835, possibly made in Philadelphia)
Those who know me are aware that some of my favorite pieces of furniture are fainting couches (I own three). Below are a few that I saw at the museum.
(The Counterfeit Note, 1858, Daniel Huntington)
(Old Time Letter Rack, 1894, John Frederick Peto)
What's remarkable about the painting below by Sanford Gifford titled: A Coming Storm is that it was painted in the midst of the Civil War and was first owned by Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, brother of Lincoln's assassin.
Beautiful sculptures can be seen throughout the museum. Many of them have roots in Philadelphia, like this bronze created by William Rush. Originally carved in wood in 1809 for a fountain that stood in front of Philadelphia's first water system (where City Hall now stands), water spouted from the beak of the bittern, a bird that frequented the banks of the Schuylkill River. Officials, concerned about the deterioration of the original, ordered it cast in bronze in 1872 and moved it in 1829 to the new Fairmount Water Works on the Schuylkill River (next to the museum).
The next piece is called "The Lost Pleiad," by Randolph Rogers, and is known as his last great mythological work. It represents Merope, who, in Greek legend, is one of seven sisters forming the Pleiades constellation. Having married a mortal, her powers weakened and she was lost from sight.
The following is a sculpture done by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and memorializes Maria Gouverneur Mitchell, who died of diphtheria in 1898 in Philadelphia. Her parents commissioned the monument to represent her "singularly sweet and blameless life." It's named, The Angel of Purity.
(Turkish Cradle, 1750)
(The Last Drop, The Gay Cavalier, Judith Leyster, 1639)
(Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the ashes of
Germanicus, Benjamin West, 1770)