Philadelphia Museum of Art Publishes New Handbook of the Collection

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has published a new handbook—the first in more than 20 years—of its encyclopedic collections. Featuring some 550 masterpieces from the Museum’s world renowned holdings of Asian, European, American, and modern and contemporary art, this volume includes a broad range of media from each of the Museum’s curatorial departments, including paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures, the decorative arts, costumes and textiles, arms and armor, and architectural settings. Expanded entries provide in depth information on some of the most significant works, among them Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece The Gross Clinic (1875) and a superb man and horse armor acquired in 2009.

The introduction to the handbook, written by Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO, recounts the Museum’s institutional history and the formation and distinctive characteristics of its collection. It has been organized into four sections—Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Contemporary Art—which cut across traditional curatorial departments and freely mix different media. Each section includes expanded entries on the most significant works in the collection, from a sixteenth-century Indian temple hall and Rogier van der Weyden’s monumental Crucifixion to Grace Kelly’s wedding dress to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. It also highlights the areas of greatest strength within the collection—from early gifts of Chinese art to the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, the Museum’s remarkable holdings of Impressionist paintings, the art of the Pennsylvania Germans, the work of Thomas Eakins, as well as contemporary art.

The handbook ($19.95; 468 pages) explores the concept of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as “a collection of collections,” calling attention to the many individuals whose generous gifts have transformed the institution. Among these were Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, who donated to the Museum his remarkable collection of arms and armor; Robert L. McNeil, Jr., who bequeathed his exceptional collection of American art; Stella Kramrisch, who greatly enhanced the Museum’s holdings of Indian art; and Louise and Walter Arensberg and A. E. Gallatin, who donated so many of the Museum’s important modernist masterworks. This new edition of the Museum’s handbook has been made possible thanks to the generosity of many members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Associates and Chairman’s Council on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Associates in 2011.

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