Finds African American and African art deeply moving
The moment for an exceptional tour of the Barnes Foundation art collection had arrived. Early on a sunny Saturday morning July 13, a dozen excited local residents were greeted warmly on the steps of Kingsessing Library by Barnes tour leaders Ana Gambao and Gema Valencia-Turko.
Among the group that boarded driver Ishmael’s yellow bus were the Hall family; young Analisa (5th Grader), Nathaniel (3rd Grader) and their mother, Lisa. Analisa’s expectations for the visit had been heightened by a creative art workshop at Kamp Kaboom this summer and she was hoping to see some non-objective art. Nathaniel had been enthralled by the “Virtual Reality” show they had all seen at the library the previous Tuesday.
The promise of an exceptional art experience was previewed as the group ambled down the walk between pools of dark water and entered the imposing monolithic grey stone building on the Parkway. As their tour proceeded, room by room, vivid French impressionist and modern American paintings on the wall came alive with the thoughtful comments of their walking guide Sara Bloom.
Interspersed with the graphic artwork were metal home fittings and hardware which met the unique design and color criteria of the collection’s founder, Dr. Albert Barnes. Within and on top of glass cabinets in every room were African statuettes which Dr. Barnes had acquired on his trips to Paris, France – almost all with some pagan religious connection. At every corner, there were chairs and candelabras – mostly made by American craftspersons – which also conformed to his aesthetic principles.
For Nathaniel, the highlight of the tour seemed to be American William Glackens bright illustration of the horses racing out of a paddock. Analisa found a strong attachment to three paintings identified as the work of Horace Pippin, particularly one depicting Christ and the Samaritan Woman against a vivid crimson dawn sky. It turned out, of course, that Pippin was an early 20th Century African American artist, grievously wounded on the front lines in WWI, who actually studied at the Barnes in 1939-40!
The entire Hall family agreed with Sara that the Henri Matisse mural “Joy of Life” (Le bonheur de vivre) displayed in its own alcove was very impressive. “It reminds me of the range of warm relationships we can have with others,” mused Lisa.
At the end of the tour, the visitors from Southwest were treated to a tasty pizza lunch while they exchanged recollection of their tour. Then on to the bus, ably driven by Ishmael, returned to the Kingsessing Library with many new thoughts about modern art and the beauty of aboriginal African carving – as Gema, Ana, and Lisa waved goodbye.
An insight on how the Hall children are being raised: Analisa didn’t sit down to her pizza lunch until she had checked to see that all her fellow tourists had a soft drink or bottle of water; as the group exited the Barnes, Nathaniel thoughtfully ran ahead to hold the door open.
For more information about touring the Barnes’ and its many educational programs, visit the website, www.barnesfoundation.org.
To find out about Kingsessing Library activities, phone (215) 685-2690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org