Archival Program Information
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Monday, March 29, 2010
3:00 p.m.
Getty Research Institute Lecture Hall, The Getty Center

Admission is free. Reservations required.

Joseph Rishel, Gisela and Dennis Alter senior curator of European Painting Before 1900, Philadelphia Museum of Art, explores the history and display of public art in Philadelphia and describes the progressive views of Fiske Kimball, longtime director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Kimball once said that his plan for the interior of the newly built "temple on the hill" was to put the Kaiser Frederich-Museum in Berlin on top of the Victoria and Albert in London. The Philadelphia collector John G. Johnson specifically stated in his will—which deeded his collection of 1,079 paintings to the citizens of Philadelphia—that the building to house them must follow Wilhelm Bode's designs for his new museum in Berlin, the same said Kaiser Frederich (a.k.a. "Bode Museum").

In the first decades of the 20th century, these progressive views (German thought at the vanguard) were adapted by Kimball (often ruled by expediencies) to notions taken from figures as far ranging as William James and Leo Stein. In ways often parallel, Dr. Albert Barnes was turning to similar sources, with John Dewey his primary ally, to set the aesthetic principles that govern the installation of his collection in his Foundation.

Add to this that the most advanced (by far) art museum in the United States after the Civil War, Frank Furness's 1876 masterpiece, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, offers a richly complex brew of shifting (and sometimes spectacularly original and beautiful) attitudes about how works of art should best be seen in public.