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Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art
East entrance
Philadelphia Museum of Art is located in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Location within Pennsylvania
Established 1876
Location 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
Type Art Museum
Visitors 639,810 (2013)[1]
Ranking 96th globally (2013)
Director Timothy Rub

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States.[2][3] It has collections of more than 227,000 objects that include "world-class holdings of European and American paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative arts".[4] The Main Building is visited by more than 800,000 people annually, and is located at the west end of Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Other museum sites include the Rodin Museum, also located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway; the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, across the street from the Main Building; and historic houses in Fairmount Park. The Perelman Building opened in 2007, and houses some of the more popular collections, as well as the Museum's library, with over 200,000 books and periodicals, and 1.6 million other documents.[5]

The museum is closed on Mondays, and the basic entrance price is $20, with various concessions.[6] The museum holds a total of about 25 special exhibitions every year, including touring exhibitions arranged with other museums in the United States and abroad. Some have an extra charge for entrance.[7]


Philadelphia celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, America's first World's Fair. Its art building, Memorial Hall, was intended to outlast the Exhibition and house a permanent museum. Following the example of London's South Kensington Museum, the new museum was to focus on applied art and science, and provide a school to train craftsmen in drawing, painting, modeling, and designing.[8]

The Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art opened on May 10, 1877. Its permanent collection began with objects from the Exhibition and gifts from the public impressed with the Exhibition's ideals of good design and craftsmanship. European and Japanese fine and decorative art objects and books for the Museum's library were among the first donations. The location outside of Center City, however, was fairly distant from many of the city's inhabitants.[9] Admission was charged until 1881, then was dropped until 1962.[10]

Starting in 1882, Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Annunciation was bought in 1899.[10]

In the early 1900s, the Museum started an education program for the general public, as well as a membership program. Fiske Kimball was the museum director during the rapid growth of the 1920s, which included one million visitors in the new building's first year. After World War II the collections grew with gifts, such as the John D. McIlhenny and George Grey Barnard collections.

Early modern art dominated the growth of the collections in the 1950s, with acquisitions of the Louise and Walter Arensberg and the A.E. Gallatin collections. The gift of Philadelphian Grace Kelly's wedding dress is perhaps the best known gift of the 1950s.[11]

Extensive renovation of the building lasted from the 1960s through 1976. Major acquisitions included the Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. and Samuel S. White III and Vera White collections, 71 objects from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés. In 1976 there were celebrations and special exhibitions for the centennial of the Museum and the bicentennial of the nation. During the last three decades major acquisitions have included After the Bath by Edgar Degas and Fifty Days at Iliam by Cy Twombly.[11]

Main Building

"Plan for the Fairmount Parkway" (1917), by Jacques Gréber.

The western pediment features polychrome sculpture by Jennewein

The City Council of Philadelphia funded a competition in 1895 to design a new museum building,[10] but it was not until 1907 that plans were first made to construct it on Fairmount, a rocky hill topped by the city's main reservoir. The Fairmount Parkway (renamed Benjamin Franklin Parkway), a grand boulevard that cut diagonally across the grid of city streets, was designed to terminate at the foot of the hill. But there were conflicting views about whether to erect a single museum building, or a number of buildings to house individual collections. The architectural firms of Horace Trumbauer and Zantzinger, Borie and Medary collaborated for more than a decade to resolve these issues. The final design is mostly credited to two architects in Trumbauer's firm: Howell Lewis Shay for the building's plan and massing, and Julian Abele for the detail work and perspective drawings.[12]

Construction of the Main Building began in 1919, when Mayor Thomas B. Smith laid the cornerstone in a Masonic ceremony. Because of shortages caused by World War I and other delays, the new building was not completed until 1928.[11] The facade and columns are made of Minnesota dolomite.

The wings were built first, which helped assure funding for the completion of the design.

The building's eight pediments were intended to be adorned with sculpture groups. The only pediment that has been completed, "Western Civilization" (1933) by C. Paul Jennewein, features his polychrome sculptures of painted terra-cotta figures, depicting Greek deities and mythological figures. It was completed in 1933 and garnered much praise when it was unveiled.

The building is also adorned by a collection of bronze griffins, which were adopted as the symbol of the museum in the 1970s.[9]

The Main Building was once derided as the "Great Greek garage", but now is fondly nicknamed the "Parthenon on the Parkway".


Henry Ossawa Tanner's Annunciation, acquired in 1899
Pablo Picasso, 1921, Nous autres musiciens (Three Musicians), oil on canvas, 204.5 x 188.3 cm

The Museum houses more than 227,000 objects showing the creative achievements of the Western world since the first century CE and those of Asia since the third millennium BCE.[13] Though the Museum houses over 200 galleries spanning 2,000 years,[5] it does not have any galleries devoted to Egyptian, Roman, or Pre-Columbian art. This is because a partnership between the Museum and the University of Pennsylvania had been enacted early in the Museum's history. The University loaned the Museum its collection of Chinese porcelain, and the Museum loaned a majority of its Roman, Pre-Columbian, and Egyptian pieces to the University. However, the Museum keeps a few important pieces for special exhibitions.

Highlights of the Asian collections include paintings and sculpture from China, Japan, and India; furniture and decorative arts, including major collections of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ceramics; a large and distinguished group of Persian and Turkish carpets; and rare and authentic architectural assemblages such as a Chinese palace hall, a Japanese teahouse, and a sixteenth-century Indian temple hall.[4]

The European collections, dating from the medieval era to the present, encompass Italian and Flemish early-Renaissance masterworks; strong representations of later European paintings, including French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism; sculpture, with a special concentration in the works of Auguste Rodin; decorative arts; tapestries; furniture; the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States; and period rooms and architectural settings ranging from the facade of a medieval church in Burgundy to a superbly decorated English drawing room by Robert Adam.[4]

The museum's American collections, surveying three centuries of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, are among the finest in the United States, with outstanding strengths in 18th- and 19th-century Philadelphia furniture and silver, Pennsylvania German art, rural Pennsylvania furniture and ceramics, and the paintings of Thomas Eakins. The museum houses the most important Eakins collection in the world.[4]

Modern artwork includes works by Pablo Picasso, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí and Constantin Brâncuși, as well as American modernists. The expanding collection of contemporary art includes major works by Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, and Sol LeWitt, among many others.[4]

The museum houses encyclopedic holdings of costume and textiles, as well as prints, drawings, and photographs that are displayed in rotation for reasons of preservation.[4]

The Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Collection

The museum also houses the armor collection of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch. The Von Kienbusch collection was bequeathed by the celebrated collector to the museum in 1976, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the American Revolution. The Von Kienbusch holdings are comprehensive and include European and Southwest Asian arms and armor spanning several centuries.[14]

On May 30, 2000, the museum and the State Art Collections in Dresden, Germany (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), announced an agreement for the return of five pieces of armor stolen from Dresden during World War II.[15] In 1953, Von Kienbusch had unsuspectingly purchased the armor, which was part of his 1976 bequest. Von Kienbusch published catalogs of his collection, which eventually led Dresden authorities to bring the matter up with the museum.[16][17]

Gallery expansion

The rear entrance covered during construction in 2008

Due to high attendance and overflowing collections, the Museum announced in October 2006 that Frank Gehry would design a building expansion. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) gallery will be built entirely underground behind the "Rocky Steps" and will not alter any of the museum's existing Greek revival facade. The construction is projected to last a decade and cost $500 million. It will increase the museum's available display space by sixty percent and house mostly contemporary sculpture, Asian art, and special exhibitions.[2][18]

Surreal entrance display for the 2005 Salvador Dalí exhibition, including the steps of the museum

Uncertainty was cast on the plans by the 2008 death of Anne d'Harnoncourt, but new director Timothy Rub, who had initiated a 350-million dollar expansion at the Cleveland Museum of Art, will be carrying out the plans as scheduled. In 2010, Gehry attended the groundbreaking for the second phase of the expansion, due to be completed in 2012. In this phase, a ground level entrance that had been replaced by a loading dock will be reclaimed, and will lead to a 500-foot-long arcaded hallway. Construction of the main new galleries will start after the completion of the second phase. Said Gehry: "When it's done, people coming to this museum will have an experience that's as big as Bilbao. It won't be apparent from the outside, but it will knock their socks off inside."[18][19]

Special exhibitions

Live 8 At the Philadelphia Museum of Art. July 2, 2005

Each year the Museum puts on 25 or more special exhibitions. Some of the larger and more famous special exhibitions, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of people from every state and around the world, include shows featuring Paul Cézanne (in 1996, attracting 548,000, and 2009) and Salvador Dalí (in 2005, attracting 370,000).

Relationship to Philadelphia

Besides being known for its architecture and collections, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has in recent decades become known due to the role it played in the Rocky films – Rocky (1976) and four of its five sequels, II, III, V and Rocky Balboa. Visitors to the museum are often seen mimicking Rocky's famous run up the front steps, now known widely as the "Rocky Steps".[20]

A bronze statue of Rocky was briefly placed at the top of the steps for the filming of Rocky III and later moved to the Spectrum. The statue was returned to the steps for the film Rocky V, and also appears in the movies Philadelphia and Mannequin. On September 8, 2006, a ceremony marked its relocation to the foot of the steps in the gardens adjacent to Eakins Oval prior to the demolition of the Spectrum.[21]

Because of its location at the end of the Franklin Parkway, the museum provides the backdrop for many public events, including concerts and parades. On July 2, 2005, the steps of the museum played host to the Philadelphia venue of Live 8, where artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park and Maroon 5 performed. The museum closed for Live 8, but reopened at regular hours the following day. The Philadelphia Freedom Concert was held two days later, with a Ball beforehand at the museum.

Collection highlights – paintings

See also


  1. ^ Top 100 Art Museum Attendance, The Art Newspaper, 2014. Retrieved on 8 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Main Web page, Philadelphia Museum of Art, accessed April 26, 2007
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Museum Collections" web page, at web site for The Philadelphia Museum of Art, accessed May 10, 2012
  5. ^ a b "Philadelphia Museum of Art: About". ARTINFO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  6. ^ PMA website Visitor information, accessed September 18, 2012
  7. ^ PMA website "Current Exhibitions"
  8. ^ "Centennial Origins: 1874–1876". History. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Philadelphia Museum of Art :: Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States". Glass Steel and Stone. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  10. ^ a b c "The Early Decades: 1877–1900". History. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c "Museum History". History. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  12. ^ David B. Brownlee, Making a Modern Classic: The Architecture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1997), pp. 60–61, 72–73.
  13. ^ PMA website "Collections", accessed, May 10, 2012
  14. ^ "Philadelphia Museum of Art - Information : Press Room : Press Releases : 2004". 2004-09-27. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  15. ^ "PMA press release". 1999-12-16. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  16. ^ Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch and the Collecting of Arms and Armor in America, Donald J. LaRocca, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 81, No. 345, Kienbusch Centennial (Winter, 1985), pp. 2+4-24, doi:10.2307/3795448
  17. ^ Armor Collection at
  18. ^ a b PMA web site "Master Plan", accessed, May 10, 2012
  19. ^ Associated Press (November 22, 2011). "Philly museum starts Gehry expansion".  
  20. ^ The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps, accessed June 17, 2011.
  21. ^ [1]

External links

  • Official website
  • Google Art Project, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 209 Artworks by 162 Artists
  • Listing at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings

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