The Barnes Foundation Extraordinary Experience
To offer guests an extraordinary experience, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia is partnering with the city’s acclaimed Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Guests will start their day with a breakfast inspired by Barnes founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872–1951), followed by a private docent tour of the Barnes collection—home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and Modern paintings. Next, a visit to the Barnes Arboretum in Merion, Pennsylvania–just a few miles from Center City Philadelphia. There they are treated to an al fresco champagne lunch and an optional painting class. It is a day to take in fine art and beautiful gardens, and to learn about the life of a grand and eccentric collector who single-handedly changed the landscape of Philadelphia.
On their private docent-led tour of the collection, guests will learn about the incredible history of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the foundation, and the art collection he built between 1912 and his death in 1951. After graduating from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, Albert Barnes made his fortune by co-inventing the silver-based antiseptic Argyrol (used as eye drops for newborn babies). But it was Barnes’ interest in art that truly put he and his high-school classmate, the artist William Glackens, on the map.
In 1912, Barnes sent Glackens to Paris to scout the galleries for modern paintings. The artist bought more than 30 works on Barnes’s behalf, including Van Gogh’s The Postman and Picasso’s Young Woman Holding a Cigarette. This was the beginning of Dr. Barnes's legendary collection, which is on display today, just as he arranged it, at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Inside the main gallery of the collection, take a moment to look up and marvel at a three-paneled oil on canvas mural by Henri Matisse. Titled The Dance, it was privately commissioned by Dr. Barnes, and is its own lesson in technique, color, line, and art history, but that is for the expert docent to explain. As they walk you through the intricacies and personal anecdotes behind many of the extraordinary art and objects in the collection, take the time to absorb it. The experience is eye-opening, entertaining, and even humorous at turns—all set before an incredible backdrop of 20th century masterpieces that are found only on the walls of Dr. Barnes’ curated rooms.
After an artful morning, guests travel to the Barnes Arboretum via a Four Seasons’ private SUV or Tesla, and are welcomed into a beautiful 12-acre (522,720 square foot) green space featuring an abundance of rare plants and breathtaking blooms, which was originally the home of Dr. Barnes and his wife, Laura Leggett Barnes, and their art collection. When they bought the property in 1922, it was Laura who devoted herself to the Arboretum and went on to found a horticulture program, which continues today through Saint Joseph’s University. Laura’s legacy lives on in the beauty of the landscape—from the shade of the huge laurel oaks and flowering quince trees, to the wisteria vines and dangling Crabapples. Lunching languorously beneath the Arboretum’s amazing trees, guests can reflect on the beauty of the day—and on their extraordinary experience filled with art, horticulture, and epicurean delights.
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