Cover image for Art, education, & African-American culture : Albert Barnes and the science of philanthropy
Art, education, & African-American culture : Albert Barnes and the science of philanthropy
Meyers, Mary Ann.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 452 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
The early years -- Experiments in education and living -- The collector and his tutors -- Mr. Dewey -- "The temple" in Merion -- The art in painting -- The art of polemics -- A new valuation of black art -- Muse, models, museum -- The dance -- Varieties of aesthetic experience -- Students and teachers -- Penn again -- The last alliance -- Postmortem -- Lincoln -- Neighbors -- Epilogue.
Format :


Call Number
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N5220.B28 M49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A physician who applied his knowledge of chemistry to the manufacture of a widely used antiseptic, Albert Barnes is best remembered as one of the great American art collectors. The Barnes Foundation, which houses his treasures, is a fabled repository of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings. Less well known is the fact that Barnes attributed his passion for collecting art to his youthful experience of African-American culture, especially music. Art, Education, and African-American Cultureis both a biography of an iconoclastic and innovative figure and a study of the often-conflicted efforts of an emergent liberalism to seek out and showcase African American contributions to the American aesthetic tradition.

Mary Ann Meyers examines Barnes's background and career and the development and evolution of his enthusiasm for collecting pictures and sculpture. She shows how Barnes's commitment to breaking down invidious distinctions and his use of the uniquely arranged works in his collection as textbooks for his school, created a milieu where masterpieces of European and American late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century painting, along with rare and beautiful African art objects, became a backdrop for endless feuding. A gallery requiring renovation, a trust prohibiting the loan or sale of a single picture, and the efforts of Lincoln University, known as the "black Princeton," to balance conflicting needs and obligations all conspired to create a legacy of legal entanglement and disputes that remain in contention.

This volume is neither an idealized account of a quixotic do-gooder nor is it a critique of a crank. While fully documenting Barnes's notorious eccentricities along with the clashing interests of the main personalities associated with his Foundation, Meyers eschews moral posturing in favor of a rich mosaic of peoples and institutions that illustrate many of the larger themes of American culture in general and African-American culture in particular.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

As the international art community eagerly awaits a court decision determining whether the world-renowned Barnes Foundation's collection of masterpieces can legally be relocated, yet another book has been published about the foundation's founder and his educational experiment. Meyers (secretary and director, American Academy of Political and Social Science) concentrates her study on the irascible, brilliant, and innovative Barnes (1872-1951) and his spirit of emergent liberalism, which spurred him to give the African American Lincoln University the honor and responsibility of nominating four of the five Barnes Foundation trustees. Extensively researched, end-noted, and archive-based, this book links Barnes's passion for art to his early life experiences in a poor section of Philadelphia, his inspiration by African American religious culture, his educational background in medicine, and his invention and production of a widely used antiseptic. It traces Barnes's repeatedly failed attempts at securing mutually beneficial, autonomous, and lasting liaisons with educational and cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area and elsewhere. This often entertaining, sometimes shocking, yet quite scholarly analysis is highly recommended for most academic libraries and those large public library collections that emphasize art, education, and African American culture.-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This illumination of the character of Barnes, whose collection of Impressionist paintings is currently the focus of a lengthy legal struggle, helps us understand the significance of that outcome for all concerned about art's history. Using an elaborate store of letters and other personal communications, Meyers (American Academy of Political and Social Science) tells an intriguing tale of a rich man's acumen in establishing a foundation to house his treasures: hundreds of paintings and sculptures. She explains his insistence on education as the keystone to the Barnes Foundation's goal of providing cultural uplift for the "common man" and why he believed in the value of African art as part of the enterprise. We are given examples of his crude behavior as well as his sharp buying practices. And we find insights into the many scholars who helped him refine his philosophical postures, and Violette de Mazia, the person who came to direct the educational programs and outlasted everyone else. The connection with rural black Lincoln University, which now controls the foundation, is explained as well as the ongoing warfare with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Although there are 50 pages of chapter notes, there is no formal bibliography. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals. K. Marantz emeritus, Ohio State University