Outside it looked like an oversized Roman temple. Inside it was truly cavernous. As I bought tickets to see the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I wondered why I had no choice but General Admission “Valid for 06/26/2013 PLUS NEXT CONSECUTIVE DAY”. I soon understood. Ruth & I planned to spend about 3 hours and left after 5 with much unseen. “The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest museums in the United States,” its visitors’ map states. This isn’t a boast. It’s the truth.
A large number of the people sharing PMoA with us were other tourists. Unlike a lot of art museums, this one attracts a million visitors each year. A lot of tourists like us were using PHLASH, a trolley making 19 stops and a great way to get from Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Schuylkill, which I finally learned how to pronounce–Skool’ kill. Many got off at the temple. Some were saying it was their 2nd day.
Also visiting on 06/26 were a large number of young art students, which enhanced our experience. One teenager was sketching a complex chair (photo) so intently that I had to ask him why? Being from China, he was intrigued by its complexity of knobs. It reminded him of an abacus. He seemed a little homesick. The chair was made in 1529 in West Wickam, Kent, England.
Ruth & I began on the 2nd floor in European Art 1500-1850 and were soon spotting works by favored artists–von Cleve, Stubbs, Chardin, etc. We almost missed a sensational Goya over a door as if curators ran out of room and had no other place to put this priceless work. The biggest surprise was a one-room, temporary exhibit–The Art of Golf. Its showpiece was The Golfers, an 1847 painting by Charles Lees depicting a “two-ball foursome” at St. Andrews in Scotland. We’re about to travel around Scotland with John, an avid golfer from Australia.
This part of PMoA contained 43 rooms, and we were soon unable to figure out which ones we hadn’t seen. A guard saw our confusion and offered a handy solution, check off visited rooms on our map. This tip really helped as we explored European Art before 1500.
On the First Floor we began with European Art 1850-1900 and found a world-class # of works by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, etc. This was connected to about 20 rooms of modern and contemporary art. As we entered and quickly exited a room full of Cy Twombly paintings, a guard approached and led us back in. Clearly lonely, he coaxed us to study, if not like, this artist’s mythological series. His patient instruction and stories revealed high-level expertise based on many days spent in the room with Cy.
My favorite area on the 1st floor was American Art because of its large number of Thomas Eakins’ works including his masterpiece, The Agnew Clinic. I especially enjoyed his not-seen-before people sketches.
We stumbled out into late afternoon heat and humidity like zombies exiting a multi-room cave. We definitely needed a 2nd day but didn’t have one. Both Ruth and I were seriously impressed with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When you’re in town to see The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Phlash to this 5 Compass Museum wearing comfortable shoes.