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The following is by Carol Eaton Soltis and was found in the American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, 1999.
Albert Coombs Barnes (2 Jan. 1872-24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes's father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert's mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor's degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist William Glackens. Graduating from Central with a B.S. degree in 1889, Barnes played semiprofessional baseball to help support himself and earned a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1892. On completing his internship he decided not to practice medicine.
Barnes had always excelled in chemistry, and he shifted his attention to the chemical aspects of physiology. He visited Europe in the summer of 1893 and returned again in 1894-1895 to work in clinical medicine and physiology at the University of Berlin. He also pursued his interests in philosophy and psychology. By 1897 he had become the director of sales and advertising for Philadelphia's leading pharmaceutical company, H. K. Mulford. Germany was the center of the lucrative chemical industry, and in 1900 Barnes was sent to Heidelberg, where he briefly studied pharmacology and philosophy and recruited the chemist and pharmacologist Hermann Hille. In 1901 Barnes married Laura Leighton Leggett, the daughter of a wealthy and established Brooklyn family. The couple had no children. By 1902 Barnes and
With Barnes's awareness of the needs of the medical marketplace and Hille's technical expertise. both privately and publicly. His displays of objects were organized according to formal and expressive similarities rather than the more traditional organizational elements of date. as the foundation's galleries. Pennsylvania. Barnes's diverse collection manifested his passion for art and reflected his analytical approach to understanding and appreciating art. and Douanier Rousseau as well as works by Amedeo Modigliani and Barnes's own discovery. Doing the sales and marketing himself. the Egyptians. Barnes's continual disputes with institutions and individuals were legendary. The Art of Henri Matisse (1933). Barnes's The Art in Painting was published. As a result his collection was particularly rich in masterpieces by Claude Monet.000 works ultimately encompassed not only masterpieces of European and American modernism but also works from the Chinese. Pablo Picasso. developing into a champion of "the modern attitude toward painting. in honor of his support of French modernism. they produced an improved silver compound with strong antiseptic properties called Argyrol. philosophy. Paul Cézanne. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It also included examples of the Old Masters. he produced The French Primitives and Their Forms (1931). were completed. and art. The educational program of the foundation included "the common man. light. color. Barnes Company was sold in 1929. and . that Barnes first developed his theories on the appreciation and understanding of art. African-American. experiencing. Pierre-August Renoir. in a factory with paintings on the walls. he was influenced by individuals such as the writer and collector Leo Stein and the dealers Ambroise Vollard and Paul Guillaume. The by-laws he created for his foundation limited access to the collection and spawned repeated controversy and litigation. Still.Hille had left Mulford to establish their own company. or the art establishment but rather was a profound and powerful human experience accessible and intelligible to anyone who had "learned how to see. en route from his Chester County home. Barnes's superior artistic sensibility." In March 1925. the educated. Barnes continued to produce Argyrol in his small factory of largely black workers. Paul Gauguin. "Ker-Feal." Although indebted to the ideas of William James. Pennsylvania. African." Becoming a discriminating and curious collector. place of origin. and bargain. He focused on art's universal elements of line. and he could often be abusive. It was here. Applying his psychological knowledge to secure employee loyalty and efficiency. the French government made Barnes a chevalier of the Legion of Honor and in 1937. Georges Seurat. he read voraciously and was eager to learn. In 1912 he had sent William Glackens. Chaim Soutine. In 1922 Barnes established the Barnes Foundation "to promote the advancement of education and appreciation of the fine arts. Cézanne. and he explained that these elements created art when their unique combination became richly expressive of common human experience or values. his personality was highly contentious. Barnes believed art was not only for the wealthy. and a large collection of decorative arts. and Native American traditions. and space and their relationships. or medium. the director of education of the art department and vice president of the foundation. His iconoclastic temperament was drawn to the masters of French modernism who sought to create a new way of seeing. the Ancients. Here he explained how to banish subjective judgments by using the objective and predictable scientific method. Glackens returned with works by Vincent Van Gogh. with those he considered his enemies. but the quality and quantity of works by Renoir. The latter introduced him to African art." to his home in Merion. Terminating his partnership with Hille in 1908. dispute. Barnes created a unique formulation. his longtime mentor and correspondent John Dewey. C. designed by Paul Philippe Cret. Van Gogh. The Art of Renoir (1935). Barnes's collection of more than 2. Barnes's expanding art collection had become his allconsuming interest. Bertrand Russell. Clive Bell. the paternalistic Barnes launched a private social experiment. an officer. Barnes was killed in an auto accident in Phoenixville. Édouard Manet. The Journal of the Barnes Foundation ran from April 1925 to April 1926. Although independent in his judgments. type. Barnes took up the philosophical challenge presented by these paintings. and others. Barnes made his fortune by aggressive worldwide distribution and vigorous legal protection of his product. debate. The Art of Cézanne (1939). educating his employees in the principles of psychology and expanding their horizons with the study of literature. to Paris to infuse Barnes's traditional collection with contemporary work. By the time the A. and understanding art. who had introduced him to impressionism and postimpressionism. and most significantly. and with Violette De Mazia. In 1926. George Santayana. and Ancient Chinese and Modern European Painting (1943). and Henri Matisse was unparalleled anywhere. Islamic. Barnes wrote numerous essays for periodicals and exhibition catalogs. It also contained an extensive selection of Picasso's early works. his intellectual acuity and ambition." whom Barnes and Dewey saw as the power behind democratic society. Although capable of extreme generosity. In 1950 Barnes amended the foundation's by-laws to empower the African-American Lincoln University to appoint the foundation's trustees.
For selections from the collection and the archive see "A Passion For Art: Renoir. along with incorrect information he disseminated himself. Corbis Pub. Barnes (1960). Oxford. The latter includes a note on sources. Albert C. Barnes." CD-ROM. D. Barnes-Horace Mann Bond Correspondence. Barnes and the Barnes Foundation.. Two brief but useful essays are Richard J.." and Anne Distel. Albert C. "Dr. For understanding Barnes's convictions about art see Albert C. Art and Education: A Collection of Essays (1929). Barnes In Paris. Merion. Wattenmaker. and Dr. The Devil and Doctor Barnes: Portrait of an American Collector (1987). and Howard Greenfield. Bibliography Much has been written about Barnes that is controversial and contradictory. and John Dewey. Publishing. Pa. Barnes of Merion: An Appreciation (1963). A definitive and fully documented biography will require many years of research. (limited access).C. Art and Argyrol: The Life and Career of Dr." in Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation (1993). Enormous numbers of press clippings and popular articles chronicle Barnes and the controversies surrounding him. Lincoln Univ. Dr. Pa. . Lincoln University Archives. Barnes et al. Henry Hart. Wattenmaker cites many of Barnes's periodical publications.his drive left the legacy of a truly great collection. Misinformation and hearsay have been printed. Washington.. Important primary sources are the Barnes Foundation Archives. and the Archives of American Art. "Dr. The Art in Painting (1925). Barnes. Albert C. Matisse. Published sources include William Schack.
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