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Art, Education, and African-American Culture: Albert Barnes and the Science of Philanthropy
     

Art, Education, and African-American Culture: Albert Barnes and the Science of Philanthropy

by Mary Ann Meyers
 

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A physician who applied his knowledge of chemistry to the manufacture of a widely used antiseptic, Albert Barnes is best remembered as one of the great American art collectors. The Barnes Foundation, which houses his treasures, is a fabled repository of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings. Less well known is the fact that Barnes attributed

Overview

A physician who applied his knowledge of chemistry to the manufacture of a widely used antiseptic, Albert Barnes is best remembered as one of the great American art collectors. The Barnes Foundation, which houses his treasures, is a fabled repository of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings. Less well known is the fact that Barnes attributed his passion for collecting art to his youthful experience of African-American culture, especially music. Art, Education, and African-American Culture is both a biography of an iconoclastic and innovative figure and a study of the often-conflicted efforts of an emergent liberalism to seek out and showcase African American contributions to the American aesthetic tradition.

Mary Ann Meyers examines Barnes's background and career and the development and evolution of his enthusiasm for collecting pictures and sculpture. She shows how Barnes's commitment to breaking down invidious distinctions and his use of the uniquely arranged works in his collection as textbooks for his school, created a milieu where masterpieces of European and American late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century painting, along with rare and beautiful African art objects, became a backdrop for endless feuding. A gallery requiring renovation, a trust prohibiting the loan or sale of a single picture, and the efforts of Lincoln University, known as the "black Princeton," to balance conflicting needs and obligations all conspired to create a legacy of legal entanglement and disputes that remain in contention.

This volume is neither an idealized account of a quixotic do-gooder nor is it a critique of a crank. While fully documenting Barnes's notorious eccentricities along with the clashing interests of the main personalities associated with his Foundation, Meyers eschews moral posturing in favor of a rich mosaic of peoples and institutions that illustrate many of the larger themes of American culture in general and African-American culture in particular.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This illumination of the character of Barnes, whose collection of Impressionist paintings is currently the focus of a lengthy legal struggle, helps us understand the significance of that outcome for all concerned about art's history. Recommended." —Choice "Meyers's compelling and cogent analysis of the back story of the Barnes Foundation shines a bright light on the long-running debate over the proper place for one of the world's most distinguished art collections..Well written and provocative, [it] is a must read for anyone who would understand the present controversy—a work of importance." Elijah Anderson, Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania "Meyers' biography [is] the most complete, measured and scholarly portrait of Barnes to date." —The Pennsylvania Gazette "Mary Ann Meyers uses a journalist's eye, and a novelist's timing in skillfully weaving the sociological, artistic, political, societal and philosophical ingredients that comprise the saga of the Barnes Foundation. Dr. Meyers is exemplary in her scholarship and even-handedness in telling a story that relentlessly offers the temptation to take sides." Frederick S. Osborne, President, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts "The author combines a researcher's patience, a journalist's eye, and a novelist's timing in skillfully weaving the sociological, artistic, political, societal, and philosophical ingredients that comprise the story of the Barnes Foundation." —SchoolArts
Library Journal
As the international art community eagerly awaits a court decision determining whether the world-renowned Barnes Foundation's collection of masterpieces can legally be relocated, yet another book has been published about the foundation's founder and his educational experiment. Meyers (secretary and director, American Academy of Political and Social Science) concentrates her study on the irascible, brilliant, and innovative Barnes (1872-1951) and his spirit of emergent liberalism, which spurred him to give the African American Lincoln University the honor and responsibility of nominating four of the five Barnes Foundation trustees. Extensively researched, end-noted, and archive-based, this book links Barnes's passion for art to his early life experiences in a poor section of Philadelphia, his inspiration by African American religious culture, his educational background in medicine, and his invention and production of a widely used antiseptic. It traces Barnes's repeatedly failed attempts at securing mutually beneficial, autonomous, and lasting liaisons with educational and cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area and elsewhere. This often entertaining, sometimes shocking, yet quite scholarly analysis is highly recommended for most academic libraries and those large public library collections that emphasize art, education, and African American culture.-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781412805636
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
03/31/2006
Pages:
474
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.08(d)

Meet the Author

Mary Ann Meyers is secretary and director of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and senior fellow at the John Templeton Foundation. Her books include Art, Education and African-American Culture: Albert Barnes and the Science of Philanthropy and A New World Jerusalem: The Swedenborgian Experience in Community Construction.

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