Monday, June 24, 2013

THE BARNES FOUNDATION REVISITED, A Philadelphia Treasure (c) By Polly Guerin


The Barnes Fojndation, Ensemble View, Room 10, West Wall
Why is it important to revisit the Barnes collection in Philadelphia? For one thing, it is an opportunity to see a rare and highly individualistic private collection in which wall arrangements, called “ensembles,” juxtapose industrial art and decorative art in equal standing along with fine art. The collection has numerous paintings by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modernist masters, as well as furniture, ancient artifacts and highly crafted objects from numerous time periods. It’s a feast for the eyes,  the 2,500 items in the collection include works by Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir and major works by Vincent van Gogh, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri Rousseau, and Chaim Soutine.

A REMARKABLE VISIONARY, Albert Coombs Barnes, the founder, amassed one of the world’s most important private holdings. In 1922, he established the Barnes Foundation, an educational institution to promote the appreciation of fine art, and housed his collection in a mansion built for that purpose in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. He created the Foundation, he said, not for the benefit of art historians, but for students. Along with his collaborator, John Dewey they developed classes, still taught today, guiding students “to see’ paintings, as light, line, color and space. In this location he created numerous restrictions to limit the number of visitors. In a famous case, Barnes refused admission to the writer, James A. Michener, who gained access to the collection by posing as an illiterate steelmaker. At the heart of his collecting was a passion for educating the underprivileged, intending his collection to be viewed by the inquiring public and students. In order to preserve the collection the City of Philadelphia relocated to a site with greater public access for all classes. Its new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia opened in 2012. The setting of the collection has largely been duplicated in the new building but its design allows more light on the artworks.

BARNES THE COLLECTOR With a fortune he made with his partner Herman Hille in the development of the antiseptic drug Argyrol, used to prevent eye infections and blindness in newborns, Barnes became a wealthy young man. After buying out Hille in 1907 Barnes became a millionaire by the age of 35. Adding to his good fortune, the well-timed sale of his company in 1929, before the stock market crash, fueled his wealth chest and enabled Barnes to pursue other avenues of interest. Barnes began in his 30s to study and collect art. He acquired his first 20 pieces by commissioning his former schoolmate, painter William J. Glackens, to advise and work for him in Paris Glackens returned with 33 paintings and works on paper, including Vincent van Gogh’s The Postman and Pablo Picasso’s Young Woman holding a cigarette. Barnes himself took a seminar with John Dewey at Columbia University and this fortuitous decision resulted in their long friendship and intellectual partnership, and in the development of an ambitious education program.

BARNES MARRIES After earning income from the sale of Argyrol the enterprising young was in a position to think of marriage and married Laura Leggett, from a well-to-do family in Brooklyn, New York. Laura Barnes proved an exceptional partner and in her own right she is recognized for the development of the Arboretum and horticultural program that are integral to the Barnes Foundation. She founded the Arboretum School in 1940, where she taught as instructor. albert Barnes' art collection and his educational theories grew and changed throughout the course of his life. Dr. Barnes was also a prolific writer whose publications include six books about art and education. With the death of Barnes in 1951, Laura succeeded her husband as president of the Foundation. Since her demise in 1966, The Barnes collenction is administered by THE BARNES FOUNDATION. The building is located near the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For general information: 215.278.7000, education 215.278.7000.

Ta Ta Darlings!!! Visiting the Barnes Foundation was an awe inspiring experience. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly’ Blogs on fashion, menremarkablevisionaries and womendeterminedtosucceed. Just go to and click on the links in the left-hand column of the page.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Summer venues, off the beaten track, offer a chance to catch up on cultural venues and at the same time to enhance summer viewing with a kaleidoscope of exhibitions that are both educational and entertaining Only in New York my friends, the best of the city. Here’s the scoop!!!
Image: Courtesy of the Maurice Sendak Estate

MAURICE SENDAK: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work. Sendak, the revolutionary children’s book author/illustrator, leaves an oeuvre of prolific outpouring with more than two hundred never-before-seen Sendak originals curated by rare-book dealers Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M. V. David at The Museum of American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators through August 17, 2013. Enter a magical world and view previously unpublished art work from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ captures the childlike wonder in us, spanning all generations. On view: amazing monsters and imaginary creatures, larger-than-life images from his picture book and poster illustrations to his commercial and theater designs. It’s a breathtaking experience and a panel discussion on June 19th from 7 to 9 pm explores the topic, “Wild Things and Other Taboos” at Society of Illustrators, 129 East 63rd St. Tickets: $10 members, $15 non-members $7 students/seniors. 212.838.2560.

A DISTANT LOVE: Songs of John and Abigail Adams. You may have missed the Manhattan Premiere of Chelsea Opera’s ‘A Distant Love,’ but co-founders Leonarda Priore and Lynne Hayden Findlay, have brought to the stage a captivating work by composer Gary S. Fagin and librettist Terry Quinn who set’ A Distant Love’ in the late 1770s and early 1780s through the Adams’s remarkable letter writing. The Chelsea Opera Chamber Orchestra conjured up romantic lyrical notes befitting John Adam’s affection for Abigail and she for her ‘Dearest Friend.” It was such an original and historic opera made all the more interesting with the introduction by Margaret A. Hogan, co-editor of ‘My Dearest Friend-Letters of Abigail and John Adams.’ Chelsea Opera is a company to add to your agenda. In October 2013 they put on Ballymore-Part One and La Pizza con Funghi. Follow Chelsea Opera on Twitter: @ChelseaOperaNYC. Phone: 212.260.1796.

LE CORBUSIER: An Atlas of Modern Landscape features room-sized interiors, major paintings and original Architectural models of buildings designed by Le Corbusier. It reveals the ways in which Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, French, born Switzerland, 1887-1965) observed and imagined landscapes throughout his career, using all the artistic mediums and techniques at his disposal, from early watercolors of Italy, Greece and turkey, to sketches of India, and from photographs of his formative journeys to architectural models of his large-scale projects bringing together 320 objects, all of these dimensions of Le Corbusier’s artistic process, including major paintings and four reconstructed interiors. Through September 23, 2013 at MoMA, 11 W. 53 Street. 212.708.9431.

JACK GOLDSTEIN X 10,000 The Jewish Museum presents the first American museum retrospective for Jack Goldstein.(1945-2003). in an exhibition that brings to light Goldstein’s important legacy, revealing his central position in the Pictures Generation of artists of the 1970s and 80s. The impressive range of the artist’s imagination is explored through Goldstein’s influential films, and paintings as well as his pioneering sound recordings, installations and writings. Throughout his career he embraced technology, using it to create works that anticipated today’s digital media. The Jewish Museum provides audiences who may not be familiar with Goldstein’s work an in-depth understanding of an extraordinary innovator. Through September 28, 2013 at 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd St. Phone: 212.423.3200.

Ta Ta Darlings!!! I’m off to catch Corbusier at MoMA. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly’s Blogs on fashion, art deco divas, storytelling and poetry. Just go to www.pollytalk and click on the links in the left-hand column of Polly’s home page.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Philadelphia Museum: ART SPLASH (c) By Polly Guerin

Lion Picks Up Mouse, Jerry Pinkney 2009
If ‘ART SPLASH,’ the Philadelphia Museum of Art has its way, the Perelman Building will be swarming with Lilliputian art enthusiasts and their parents who are invited to indulge their senses to explore, create, and play with five family-friendly exhibitions, pay what you wish festivals, interactive art and play zones and daily family activities. There’s nothing staid about the world-renowned Museum. It showcases the classics, sculpture, works on paper, photography, textiles and the decorative arts, but its family-friendly and youth programs attest to its outreach to a new generation of museum visitors through ‘ART SPLASH’ a summer of art and fun for the whole family in the Perelman Building. It’s worth daytripping to Philadelphia to partake of the diversified activities through September 2, 2013.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY EXHIBITIONS ‘Design for the Modern Child’ caught my attention, particularly Pinocchio Rug, by Hey, Horsens 2008. It may look like it is made of Gum balls, but each eye-popping colored ball is assembled row after row to form a circular rug and perhaps teach children a thing or two about color. ‘Candy-Coated Wonderland’ leads the viewer into a fantasy world where multi-media artist Candy-Coated blends nineteenth- and twentieth-century children’s fancy dress costumes into a rich wonderland of colorful vinyl decals, ceramic wall gems and wallpapers to amaze children and adults alike by the costumes and painted imaginary. ‘All Dressed Up: Fashions for Children and their Families’ puts an historical spin on clothing of bygone eras.

WITNESS: THE ART OF JERRY PINKNEY Philadelphia’s native son, the celebrity illustrator and writer of children’s books, Jerry Pinkney, has his day in a gallery devoted to his prolific genre. Mr. Pinkney had always had an interest in diversity and many of his children’s books celebrate the multicultural and African-American themes. This exhibition of drawings and watercolors presents an overview of the long career of the Mr. Pinkney touching on personal and cultural themes such as the African-American experience reflecting the transformative power of visual storytelling. Among his honors, he was awarded the 2010 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing the Lion and the Mousse, a version of Aesop’s families among a treasure trove of illustrations.

The Perelman Building, corner of Pennsylvania and Fairmount Avenues, offers new themes each week. A complimentary visitor shuttle bus equipped with a lift for easy stroller transport departs every fifteen minutes from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Stroller parking inside the Perelman building and Gallery Café offers kid-friendly selections. 215.763.8100.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Patricia Schuman as the Duchess of Argyll
There’s a new gal in town; the Duchess of Argyll has her day in Opera Philadelphia’s POWDER HER FACE which portrays the scandalous life of the beautiful Margaret Campbell, who is best known as the "Dirty Duchess." Composer, Thomas Ades' opera has been performed all around the world but Opera Philadelphia gives it a powerful punch performance that is riveting with sexual innuendo. This is a true-to-life story about a woman born into society, a wealthy vain party girl who apparently had a voracious sexual appetite that could only be satisfied with a number of men. Yet on the stage of life, as a young woman. the Duchess was photographed, written about, flattered, admired and included in the Ten Best-Dressed Women in the world, and mentioned by Cole Porter in the words of his hit song ‘You’re the Top.’ This is an opera, not to be missed. The remaining performances of Powder Her Face are June 12, 14 & 16 matinee. Here’s the scoop!!!
THE NOTORIOUS SOCIALITE No doubt, an opera for mature audiences, the most explicit scenes are handled with clever theatrical ploys that suggest rather than show the explicit insatiable sexual acts of the notorious British Socialite. Much to the credit of the director and scenic designer props hide one of the sex acts behind a lush lipstick red sofa, but it is obvious to the audience what is going on. The Duchess may have bedded in real life as many as eighty-eight men; royals, politicians and celebrities but in her promiscuous desires she even stoops to conquer the hotel porter.

The Duchess in the Luxury Hotel
STAR PERFORMANCE Patricia Schuman, who portrays Margaret, Duchess of Argyll manages to keep a strict upper crust appearance with such a lady-like persona that is challenging to think that the Duchess could be such a flagrant provocateur. Ms. Schuman is a convincing Duchess. Early on she said, “I could not resist the opportunity to take on a role as musically and dramatically lush as The Dirty Duchess. To this end, Ms. Schuman carries herself with regal dignity; throughout she is fully in command of the stage, while the rich tones of her soprano portray the fact that she is every bit the diva of the opera. She is dressed impeccably in couture-like ensembles or in bedroom scenes clad in shimmering white silk robes or eye-crunching pink peignoirs ready for action in the bedroom.

THE LIBRETTO Much of his credit Philip Hensher’s libretto is based on the notorious life of Britain’s so-called “Dirty Duchess.” The opera unravels the Duchess’ exploits to her final demise, forgotten, unloved and unable to pay her bills, living alone in a luxury hotel she cannot afford. The Duchess is best remembered for her divorce case against her second husband, the 11th Duke of Argyll, which featured salacious photographs and scandalous stories about her exploits which plays out at the end of the opera. Ben Wager’s Duke, Hotel Manger and Magistrate roles are play acted and sung most engagingly, particularly in the bedroom scene with his mistress, where his convincing portrayal of the Duke and his rich baritone take total command of the situation . As for Christopher Tiesi and Ashley Emerson their multi-tasking roles are pure genius with energetic dexterity and utterly convincing character changes.

At the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, performed in English with English subtitles. or 215.893.1018.

Polly Guerin Author: 7th Book: Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty of New York (History Press 2012)                        Board Member: Giulio Gari Opera Foundation

Monday, June 3, 2013



Old Masters in New Quarters
It’s time to see European Paintings in a new way, it’s time to be inspired by fashion influenced by history and it’s time to partake in the best of New York’s cultural scene and breathtaking venues to fuel your creativity. Here’s the scoop!!!

OLD MASTERS IN NEW QUARTERS European Painting Revisited: The reinstalled, renovated and expanded European paintings galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens with a spectacular presentation of more than 700 paintings in 45 galleries. So challenging is the presentation that you will need to make many more visits to view the collection in a new way. The representation of Rembrandt's, Rubens, Vermeer, Goya and other great masters is breathtaking array of favorite master paintings and other great works not seen for awhile from the permanent collection. Everything has been cleaned, restored, revitalized and brought back to life, some in new period frames. There is portraiture, landscape, genre painting, still life, ceramics and sculpture. With seven suggested visits to capture the full import of the collections an informative, illustrated walking guide includes concise and lucid historical texts and floor plans to help you navigate through the galleries.

RetroSpective at The Museum at FIT The repository of great historical fashions digs deep into its archives. The new exhibition RetroSpective examines the relationship between fashion and its own history illustrating through garments on displayed on mannequins how designers draw on the past as a fundamental part of their design process. They adapt, interpret, and attempt to modernize historical silhouettes and details that are as disparate as cage crinolines, flapper dress, and grunge. The exhibition begins with examples of fashion inspired by historical periods prior to the 18th century including a 1981 gold lame ensemble by Zhandra Rhodes and a 1999 painted silk chiffon gown by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Couture. One result of a craze for Victorian in the 1930’s was the reprisal of 19th-century cage crinolines and bustles. Let me also mention, that art also influences fashion. Just recently in Women’s Wear Daily it was reported that impressionist paintings, mostly landscapes by Manet and Monet, were the inspiration behind Tory Burch’s resort collection. Admission is FREE and open to the public through November, 2013.

ILLUMINATING FAITH The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art Leave it to the Morgan Museum and Library to explore how artists depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society in more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts drawn from the Museum’s renowned collections. Illuminating Faith also offers glimpses into medieval culture and presents some of the Morgan’s finest works, including the Hours of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greats of all Books of Hours, a private prayer book commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, queen of France for her son the dauphin, Charles-Orland; and a number of rarely-exhibited Missals. At 225 Madison Ave. through Sept. 2, 2013.

HANNAH ARENDT – Her Ideas Changed the World – Polly’s Movie Pick of the Week is Margarethe von Trotta’s highly dramatic and incredibly timely film, HANNAH ARENDT. The sublime Barbara Sukowa commands the screen in a brilliant new biopic of the influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist, Arendt’s reporting of the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann in the New York—controversial both for her portrayal of Eichmann and the Jewish council—including her now-famous concept of the “Banality of Evil.” At the Film Forum on Houston Street.

Ta Ta Darlings!!! I may get lost in the galleries at the Met’s Old Masters in New Quarters. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly’ Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column of the page.