The House of Barnes: The Man, The Collection, The Controversy is a beautifully written study of the extraordinary art collector and volatile personality Albert C. Barnes. The book places him in the context of his own era, shedding new light on the movements and ideas (about art collecting, education, and aesthetics) that shaped so much of his thinking.
The Barnes’ major holdings of post-impressionist and early modern art include more than 800 paintings, with a strong focus on Renoir (181 canvases), Cézanne (69), Matisse (59), and Picasso (46 paintings and drawings). In its entirety, it is the greatest single collection of such art that has remained intact.
The last chapters of the book address the controversial events surrounding the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia, including vehement opposition—as well as strong support. There is an analysis of the Foundation’s financial plight, a review of the major court cases over the decades, and a characterization of the fervent reactions following the court’s decision to allow the move to take place.
The monograph is recommended for a broad audience, especially those interested in art and art collecting; the role of art in education; and the development of cultural institutions.
2012 J. F. LEWIS AWARD WINNER
With bold clarity, in a manner which can only be described as magisterial, Dr. Rudenstine has written a history of Dr. Albert Barnes, particularly as it relates to the thoughts and actions which shaped his Foundation. The depth of research and wisdom brought to its interpretation surpasses all other publications on the subject.
The book sets a new standard of highly informed and sophisticated insight into the complexity of Barnes as a man, his legacy, and how this played out with other elements which have governed the fate of his Foundation.
Joseph J. Rishel
Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900
Philadelphia Museum of Art
This text provides the first scholarly foray into the historical and aesthetic context in which Barnes sought to intervene, and it goes very far toward explaining why he made certain decisions, including some of his most irrational ones. Barnes is neither eulogized nor demonized.
The scholarship is superb, the research highly original, and the author’s patience with his subject, astounding. This book is entirely free of jargon; even those who lack legal or financial competence could follow all its intricacies; and it is beautifully written.
Professor of Art History
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Neil Rudenstine is President Emeritus of Harvard University (1991-2001). He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ARTstor and the New York Public Library. He is a Member of the American Philosophical Society, Class 5 (1992).