Puneet Varma (Editor)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Type  Art museum
Visitors  751,797 (2015)
Collection size  240,000
Director  Timothy Rub
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Established  February 1876 (1876-02)
Location  2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
Address  2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
Hours  Open today · 10AM–8:45AMWednesday10AM–8:45AMThursday10AM–5PMFriday10AM–8:45PMSaturday10AM–5PMSunday10AM–5PMMondayClosedTuesday10AM–5PMSuggest an edit
Architectural style  Greek Revival architecture
Artwork  Nude Descending a Staircas, The Bride Stripped Bare by H, The Gross Clinic, Soft Construction with Boile, The Large Bathers

Philadelphia museum of art philadelphia pa travel thru history

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is an art museum originally chartered in 1876 for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The main museum building was completed in 1928 on Fairmount, a hill located at the northwest end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at Eakins Oval. The museum administers collections containing over 240,000 objects including major holdings of European, American and Asian origin. The various classes of artwork include sculpture, paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, armor and decorative arts. The attendance figure for the museum was 751,797 in 2015, an increase of 17% from the prior year, ranking it among the top one hundred most-visited art museums in the world. The museum is also one of the largest art museums in the world based on gallery space.


The Philadelphia Museum of Art administers several annexes including the Rodin Museum, also located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, which is located across the street just north of the main building. The Perelman Building, which opened in 2007, houses more than 150,000 prints, drawings and photographs, along with 30,000 costume and textile pieces, and over 1,000 modern and contemporary design objects including furniture, ceramics and glasswork. The museum also administers the historic colonial-era houses of Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, both located in Fairmount Park. The museum and its annexes are owned by the City of Philadelphia and administered by a registered nonprofit corporation.

As of 2017, the standard adult admission price is $20 which allows entrance to the main building and all annexes for two consecutive days. The museum is closed on Mondays except on some holidays. A special "Pay What You Wish" program is in effect on the first Sunday of each month from 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and every Wednesday evening from 5:00–8:45 p.m. when visitors are requested to "...support us with whatever amount you wish." Several special exhibitions are held in the museum every year, including touring exhibitions arranged with other museums in the United States and abroad. Special exhibitions may have an extra charge for entrance.


Philadelphia celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with the 1876 Centennial Exposition, America's first World's Fair. Its art building, Memorial Hall, was intended to outlast the Exhibition and house a permanent museum. Following the example of London's South Kensington Museum, the new museum was to focus on applied art and science, and provide a school to train craftsmen in drawing, painting, modeling, and designing.

The Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art opened on May 10, 1877. Its permanent collection began with objects from the Exhibition and gifts from the public impressed with the Exhibition's ideals of good design and craftsmanship. European and Japanese fine and decorative art objects and books for the Museum's library were among the first donations. The location outside of Center City, however, was fairly distant from many of the city's inhabitants. Admission was charged until 1881, then was dropped until 1962.

Starting in 1882, Clara Jessup Moore donated a remarkable collection of antique furniture, enamels, carved ivory, jewelry, metalwork, glass, ceramics, books, textiles and paintings. The Countess de Brazza's lace collection was acquired in 1894 forming the nucleus of the lace collection. In 1893 Anna H. Wilstach bequeathed a large painting collection, including many American paintings, and an endowment of half a million dollars for additional purchases. Works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and George Inness were purchased within a few years and Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Annunciation was bought in 1899.

In the early 1900s, the Museum started an education program for the general public, as well as a membership program. Fiske Kimball was the museum director during the rapid growth of the 1920s, which included one million visitors in the new building's first year. After World War II the collections grew with gifts, such as the John D. McIlhenny and George Grey Barnard collections.

Early modern art dominated the growth of the collections in the 1950s, with acquisitions of the Louise and Walter Arensberg and the A.E. Gallatin collections. The gift of Philadelphian Grace Kelly's wedding dress is perhaps the best known gift of the 1950s.

Extensive renovation of the building lasted from the 1960s through 1976. Major acquisitions included the Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. and Samuel S. White III and Vera White collections, 71 objects from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés. In 1976 there were celebrations and special exhibitions for the centennial of the Museum and the bicentennial of the nation. During the last three decades major acquisitions have included After the Bath by Edgar Degas and Fifty Days at Iliam by Cy Twombly.

Main building

The City Council of Philadelphia funded a competition in 1895 to design a new museum building, but it was not until 1907 that plans were first made to construct it on Fairmount, a rocky hill topped by the city's main reservoir. The Fairmount Parkway (renamed Benjamin Franklin Parkway), a grand boulevard that cut diagonally across the grid of city streets, was designed to terminate at the foot of the hill. But there were conflicting views about whether to erect a single museum building, or a number of buildings to house individual collections. The architectural firms of Horace Trumbauer and Zantzinger, Borie and Medary collaborated for more than a decade to resolve these issues. The final design is mostly credited to two architects in Trumbauer's firm: Howell Lewis Shay for the building's plan and massing, and Julian Abele for the detail work and perspective drawings. In 1902, Abele had become the first African-American student to be graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Architecture, which is presently known as Penn's School of Design. Abele adapted classical Greek temple columns for the design of the museum entrances, and was responsible for the colors of both the building stone and the figures added to one of the pediments.

Construction of the main building began in 1919, when Mayor Thomas B. Smith laid the cornerstone in a Masonic ceremony. Because of shortages caused by World War I and other delays, the new building was not completed until 1928. The building was constructed with dolomite quarried in Minnesota.

The wings were intentionally built first, to help assure the continued funding for the completion of the design. Once the building's exterior was completed, twenty second-floor galleries containing English and American art opened to the public on March 26, 1928 though a large amount of interior work was incomplete.

The building's eight pediments were intended to be adorned with sculpture groups. The only pediment that has been completed, "Western Civilization" (1933) by C. Paul Jennewein, features his polychrome sculptures of painted terra-cotta figures, depicting Greek deities and mythological figures. The sculpture group was awarded the Medal of Honor of the Architectural League of New York.

The building is also adorned by a collection of bronze griffins, which were adopted as the symbol of the museum in the 1970s.

List of directors

There have been 10 directors of the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

  • 10. Timothy Rub, 2009 to present
  • 9. Anne d'Harnoncourt, 1982 to 2008
  • 8. Jean Sutherland Boggs, 1978 to 1982
  • 7. Evan Hopkins Turner, 1964 to 1977
  • 6. Henri Gabriel Marceau, 1955 to 1964
  • 5. Fiske Kimball, 1925 to 1955
  • 4. Langdon Warner, 1917 to 1923
  • 3. Edwin Atlee Barber, 1907 to 1916
  • 2. William Platt Pepper, 1899 to 1907
  • 1. Dalton Dorr, 1892 to 1899
  • Collections

    The Museum houses more than 227,000 objects showing the creative achievements of the Western world since the first century CE and those of Asia since the third millennium BCE. Though the Museum houses over 200 galleries spanning 2,000 years, it does not have any galleries devoted to Egyptian, Roman, or Pre-Columbian art. This is because a partnership between the Museum and the University of Pennsylvania had been enacted early in the Museum's history. The University loaned the Museum its collection of Chinese porcelain, and the Museum loaned a majority of its Roman, Pre-Columbian, and Egyptian pieces to the University. However, the Museum keeps a few important pieces for special exhibitions.

    Highlights of the Asian collections include paintings and sculpture from China, Japan, and India; furniture and decorative arts, including major collections of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ceramics; a large and distinguished group of Persian and Turkish carpets; and rare and authentic architectural assemblages such as a Chinese palace hall, a Japanese teahouse, and a sixteenth-century Indian temple hall.

    The European collections, dating from the medieval era to the present, encompass Italian and Flemish early-Renaissance masterworks; strong representations of later European paintings, including French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism; sculpture, with a special concentration in the works of Auguste Rodin; decorative arts; tapestries; furniture; the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States; and period rooms and architectural settings ranging from the facade of a medieval church in Burgundy to a superbly decorated English drawing room by Robert Adam.

    The museum's American collections, surveying three centuries of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, are among the finest in the United States, with outstanding strengths in 18th- and 19th-century Philadelphia furniture and silver, Pennsylvania German art, rural Pennsylvania furniture and ceramics, and the paintings of Thomas Eakins. The museum houses the most important Eakins collection in the world.

    Modern artwork includes works by Pablo Picasso, Jean Metzinger, Antonio Rotta, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí and Constantin Brâncuși, as well as American modernists. The expanding collection of contemporary art includes major works by Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, and Sol LeWitt, among many others.

    The museum houses encyclopedic holdings of costume and textiles, as well as prints, drawings, and photographs that are displayed in rotation for reasons of preservation.

    The Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Collection

    The museum also houses the armor collection of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch. The Von Kienbusch collection was bequeathed by the celebrated collector to the museum in 1976, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the American Revolution. The Von Kienbusch holdings are comprehensive and include European and Southwest Asian arms and armor spanning several centuries.

    On May 30, 2000, the museum and the State Art Collections in Dresden, Germany (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), announced an agreement for the return of five pieces of armor stolen from Dresden during World War II. In 1953, Von Kienbusch had unsuspectingly purchased the armor, which was part of his 1976 bequest. Von Kienbusch published catalogs of his collection, which eventually led Dresden authorities to bring the matter up with the museum.

    Special exhibitions

    Each year the museum organizes several special exhibitions. Some of the more recent special exhibitions have featured Paul Cézanne in 1996 and 2009, Salvador Dalí in 2005, Auguste Renoir in 2008 and 2010, and Vincent van Gogh in 2012.

    Due to high attendance and overflowing collections, the Museum announced in October 2006 that Frank Gehry would design a building expansion. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) gallery will be built entirely underground behind the east entrance stairs and will not alter any of the museum's existing Greek revival facade. The construction is projected to last a decade and cost $500 million. It will increase the museum's available display space by sixty percent and house mostly contemporary sculpture, Asian art, and special exhibitions.

    Uncertainty was cast on the plans by the 2008 death of Anne d'Harnoncourt, but new director Timothy Rub, who had initiated a 350-million dollar expansion at the Cleveland Museum of Art, will be carrying out the plans as scheduled. In 2010, Gehry attended the groundbreaking for the second phase of the expansion, due to be completed in 2012. In this phase, a ground level entrance that had been replaced by a loading dock will be reclaimed, and will lead to a 500-foot-long arcaded hallway. Construction of the new galleries will start after the completion of the second phase. Said Gehry: "When it's done, people coming to this museum will have an experience that's as big as Bilbao. It won't be apparent from the outside, but it will knock their socks off inside."

    The most controversial part of the Gehry design remains a proposed window and amphitheater to be cut into the east entrance stairs. Others have criticized the design as too tame. The Gehry expansion is projected to be completed by 2028.

    Besides being known for its architecture and collections, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has in recent decades become known due to the role it played in the Rocky films—Rocky (1976) and five of its six sequels, II, III, V, Rocky Balboa and Creed. Visitors to the museum are often seen mimicking Rocky Balboa's (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone) famous run up the east entrance stairs, informally nicknamed the Rocky Steps. Screen Junkies named the museum's stairs the second most famous movie location behind only Grand Central Station in New York.

    An 8.5 ft (2.6 m) tall bronze statue of the Rocky Balboa character was created in 1980 and placed at the top of the stairs in 1982 for the filming of Rocky III. After filming was complete, Stallone donated the statue to the city of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Art Commission eventually decided to relocate the statue to the now-defunct Spectrum sports arena due to controversy over its prominent placement at the top of the museum's front stairs and questions about its artistic merit. The statue was placed briefly on top of the stairs again for the film Rocky V and then returned to the Spectrum. In 2006, the statue was relocated to a new display area on the north side of the base of the stairs.

    The museum provides the backdrop for concerts and parades because of its location at the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway. The museum's east entrance area played host to the American venue of the international Live 8 concert held on July 2, 2005 with musical artists including Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park and Maroon 5. The Philadelphia Freedom Concert, orchestrated and headlined by Elton John, was held two days later on the same outdoor stage from the Live 8 concert while a preceding ball was held inside the museum.

    On September 26, 2015, the Festival of Families event, attended by Pope Francis, was held along the Ben Franklin Parkway with musical performances by various acts within Eakins Oval in front of the museum, as well as in Logan Square.


    Philadelphia Museum of Art Wikipedia