On a cold, sunny early January afternoon, Miss Shirleen surprised Shoshka & DoN with tickets to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Just a quick drive to the mansion from the plateau, the guards greeted us and pointed to a parking spot and soon we were wandering the fabulous rooms filled with French Impressionist masterworks, African sculptures and antiquities.
The main hall is the social hub with visitors absorbing and discussing in hushed tones the eccentric array of masterpieces. Quickly splitting up, the three of us gravitated to lush Monet‘s, an oddly hung Seurat or a small Cezanne and soon DoN found himself alone in a room with one of Van Gogh‘s famous Postman portraits hung clumsily in the corner. DoN moved in closer and closer, studying the brushwork, observing color-ways, admiring the pattern of the floral wallpaper in the background, the Postman’s eyes staring straight into DoN‘s. When DoN was about a foot from the painting he felt a tap on the shoulder, jumping like an armadillo, DoN was smilingly admonished by a pretty guard, he had wandered over the black electric tape line, the only barrier between DoN & Vincent.
After about ten minutes a few more visitors joined DoN so he moved on to the next gallery and again had one-on-one time with an Heironymus Bosch, it seems unreal that such an iconic object is so accessible, the phantasmagoria playing out across the canvas like a fever dream. There’s a Soutine which DoN used to think was ugly and seemed to suck the oxygen out of the room but over time the skewed, garish sailor boy has transmuted into a signification of the meaning of painting. Toulous Lautrec’s “A Montrouge” is so incredibly beautiful that everything else in the room becomes a supporting player.
DoN doesn’t understand why the Barnes is moving to the Parkway even though it will be within walking distance for many more people. The commute to the current location is simple, the wacko presentation of art & utilitarian craft in a Main Line mansion is a unique experience and, oh yeah, it breaks Barnes’ last will & testament, beside the fact that the place was practically empty on a Saturday afternoon. Is there really an audience for the quirky mix of art & industry removed from it’s original locale? DoN recommends you schedule your visit asap – it’s a trip.