Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art, established in 1875, chartered in 1876. When the city of Philadelphia planned to erect a building to house the Centennial Exposition of 1876, provision was made to keep the building permanently occupied; the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art was privately established for that purpose. Its name was changed in 1929 to the Pennsylvania Museum of Art, and the present name adopted in 1938. Its present building, modeled after a Greek temple, was opened in 1928. It is owned by the city. The museum complex also includes the Museum College of Art; the art deco Perelman Building (1927), acquired in 2000; the Rodin Museum, which houses the largest public collection of the artist's work outside of Paris; the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial; and three colonial houses.

The museum, which possesses more than 225,000 works of art, has many fine collections; paramount among them is the John G. Johnson Collection of European old masters. Other major bequests of European art include the Wilstach, Elkins, McFadden, and McIlhenny collections. The Cadwalader Collection of American art; the Gallatin, Arensberg, and Stieglitz collections of modern art; and the Crozier Collection of Persian and Chinese art are also of great importance. The museum houses more than 60 paintings by Thomas Eakins. It also possesses representative selections of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art; many period rooms, including a French Romanesque cloister and a Gothic chapel; a collection of textiles and costumes; and a fine group of works by Marcel Duchamp, including Nude Descending a Staircase.

See Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collection (1995).

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