Sixty Students Honor Thirty Americans at Barnes Foundation

Colin L. '21, Staff Writer

On January 8th, 2020, Mrs. Smith’s Honors English III classes went to the Barnes Museum. This Museum, located in Center City, contains collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and modern paintings.  Most recently, our Cahillites visited a special limited-time exhibit entitled “Thirty Americans.” This gallery focused primarily on thirty important and influential African-Americans who have impacted society socially and artistically. Many of these paintings focused on themes of wealth, gender, ethnicity, class, culture and identity.  Each piece told a unique story.

One painting that stood out to me showed a man with a golden spear on a horse amid a luxurious background. This image highlights courage amidst any setting.

Some of the paintings revealed more graphic and unjust messages.  One exhibit I can recall sharply was a wall filled with cotton signifying the pre-civil war horrors of slavery. Another disturbing image showed a gate with a Ku Klux Klan member on each side of the post representing the real life horrors of segregation, discrimination, and racism.

Like the works we study in English Class, much of the art was uniquely symbolic.  A piece showing a woman with long hair reaching to just below her knees signifies the idea of hiding from the indifference of others interpretation and why many instances may seem unjust or truly unfair.

On the other side of the museum, we briefly saw many permanent paintings in the collection originally assembled by of Dr. Albert Barnes, a native of Philadelphia. Some of that collected artwork included masterpieces by Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso. Many of these famous paintings collected and carefully organized by Dr. Barnes are impressionist in style meaning they uniquely use vibrant colors and shapes. As our trip came to an end, it was uplifting to see that many other students in my group observed and were emotionally moved by the art.  What is certain however is that none of the juniors who went that day will soon forget the impression the Thirty American’s artists had on us!