Philadelphia Museum of Art~Google Cultural Institute
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to more than 227,000 works of art spanning the creative achievements of humankind from all corners of the globe. The Asian art collections contain works from pre-antiquity to the present, while the European holdings date from the medieval era. The American collections, particularly strong in representing the achievements of historic Philadelphia, are among the finest in the country. In addition to these holdings are expanding collections of modern and contemporary art, one of the country’s largest collections of arms and armor, unique architectural settings and period rooms, and encyclopedic collections of costume and textiles and prints, drawings, and photographs.
The Museum originated with the great Centennial Exhibition of 1876, which celebrated the nation's first 100 years and was held in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. At the conclusion of the festivities, the Exhibition's art gallery--known as Memorial Hall--remained open as a Museum "for the improvement and enjoyment of the people of the Commonwealth."
In those early decades, the collections consisted of industrial objects as well as fine and decorative arts such as European ceramics. Books were among these earliest acquisitions, as well as furniture, enamels, carved ivories, jewelry, metalwork, glass, pottery, porcelain, textiles, and paintings. Two of Fairmount Park's historic houses, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, were placed under the Museum's administration in 1926 and 1927, respectively, and in 1928, a new building was completed on Fairmount, overlooking the city, to house the growing collections. It is today the Museum's Main Building, an iconic structure that remains one of Philadelphia’s most beloved and recognizable landmarks.
Skillful leadership helped to keep operations running during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1937, Cezanne's monumental Large Bathers joined the collections, and in 1939, the Fairmount Park Commission appointed the Museum to administer the Rodin Museum as well. The 1940s and 1950s witnessed a number of important gifts, among them many masterpieces of early modern art--a large group of sculptures by Constantin Brancusi; the foremost collection of works by Marcel Duchamp in the world; and paintings by the likes of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kandinski, and Mondrian. The 1960s saw major Impressionist masterpieces join the collections, among them Renoir's Large Bathers; Monet's Japanese Footbridge; and Van Gogh's Sunflowers. In 1977 the collection of arms and armor grew to become one of the largest in the country, while the 1980s and 1990s witnessed still more growth with acquisitions ranging from Degas's After the Bath to Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam to a distinguished collection of Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan objects.
With the advent of a new century, the collections and buildings alike have seen further expansion. Under the directorship of the late Anne d'Harnoncourt, the Museum acquired treasures by Copley, Houdon, the Julien Levy collection of photographs, and Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic--a joint purchase with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 2006, Frank O. Gehry was selected as architect for a master plan to dramatically expand the Main Building, while 2007 saw the opening of the Perelman Building, with new galleries, offices, and state-of-the-art storage spaces.
Timothy Rub became the Museum's 13th Director in 2009, and under his leadership growth and acquisitions have continued apace--including major holdings of photographs by Paul Strand and a rare portrait by Charles Willson Peale, one of the earliest known paintings of an African American. Recent years have also witnessed the unveiling of the Anne d'Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden, built above a new parking facility and overlooking the Schuylkill River on the west side of the Main Building. Also ongoing has been the renovation and reinstallation of the Rodin Museum, scheduled to re-open in July 2012.