Updated: Apr 20
This past Saturday I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time since I got out of school. After taking the hit of $20 to get in, R.I.P. to my student discounts, I actually had a pretty great trip. The difference between a gallery and a museum is always so striking to me, even the big galleries seem like a totally different world compared to museums. Moving through a curated history of art from period to period and region to region is always a fun experience, especially when there’s some big time master work mixed in. I’d have to say that this was definitely my most fulfilling trip to the PMA in recent memory and I took a lot of notes along the way. So, while I was racking my brain on what to write for you all on this monday I decided that I’d share my notes with you. Now this isn’t some detailed listing and critiquing of the same masters that you’ve heard about a million times, we like to have fun here at Pleb’s, this is a list of observations as I moved through the gallery. That isn’t limited to the art either, I want to give you cool shit you might not have heard of, observations on the art making process, people watching notes, all types of shit. I’m not trying to give you all some scholarly editorial about a museum that bores you to tears, I want to give you a little insight as to what’s going on at the PMA but also give you a fun read with some goofy observations. So without rambling on too much, let’s get into this!
-The ratio of people on the steps/at the Rocky statue to people actually in the museum is an easy 4:1, maybe 5:1 and that’s sad.
-(I had this thought later but it’s relevant to a lot of stuff so I’ll move it up) The difference in ability to create detail and paint thickness between oil paintings on panel and on canvas is crazy. Panel is much flatter, smoother so works tend to be much more detailed and canvas tends to require thicker paint to add depth where small detail is harder to achieve. The glare caused by the thicker paint on canvas pieces is infuriating, I like to get close, examine process and details and some of this stuff seems to be lit without glare in mind.
-Antonio Mancini’s Il Saltimbanco. Beautiful piece (glare on it is brutal though, it’s super tall so it’s hard to light_
-Cezanne and Renoir’s flower paintings right next to each other… They both suck.
-A couple gorgeous and HILARIOUS Picasso pieces tucked in a corner..
-(later on than the portraits) Amazing Cubism display of Picasso and Braque’s work. I was truly in awe looking at some of these famous pieces.
-Modigliani’s “Blue Eyes’ is here. Didn’t know that, amazingly terrifying piece. (Andy Muschietti sites this and other Modigliani’s as the inspiration for images in the movies IT and Mama)
-Always amazing to step into the Jasper Johns room, According to What obviously being the standout piece. I could stare at these for hours.
-Bruce Nauman’s work with neon excites the hipsters because the art is modern enough for them to feel safe and away from the mainstream in a group of mid 1900’s master works.
-Are we ever going to collectively agree that Piet Mondrian’s work is fucking stupid?
-Saw a dude with wallet chains in a room full of Joan Miro paintings and I thought that, in and of itself, was art.
-“The Duchamp Family” exhibit further proves that Marcel is and should be the only one that anyone gives a fuck about. You’re doing a disservice to yourself if you visit and don’t spend time in Etant Donnes.
-The way art museum security moves around as you do constantly feels like they’re catching on to me as I’m Nicolas Cage National Treasuring this museum.
Speaking of art museum security, what are they writing down all the time? I’m genuinely curious.
-Caspar Bernhard Hardy’s Dying Philosopher is LIT.
-Why did marble sculpting die? Where can I get a good bust made these days?
Bad, or noticable, art restoration should be a felony. (or at least not in a massive museum)
-Romanesque painting is amazing considering everyone was just kind of bad for a while, then they just made a style out of it.
-Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would Freeze by Hendrick Goltzious is gorgeous.
-I stared at Prometheus Bound by Peter Paul Reubens and Frans Snyder for a good 30 minutes and had the people I was with not wanted to move on I would have stayed there for much, MUCH longer. That painting is unbelievable.
-Speaking of Reubens, one of the most common portraits of him is there and it’s like 3x3 in. Isn’t that crazy?
-If you don’t think the arms and armor collection is awesome, you’re a fucking loser.
-Antony Gormley’s installation on the steps might top the whole museum. (it doesn’t, but Gormley is one of my favorite sculptors ever and seeing his work is incredible, even though I could do without the tourists climbing on it.)
Well I hope that was as fun for you to read as it was for me to write. There’s not a whole lot to take away from this except for how fun and fulfilling experiences like this can be for us. Also, the artworks that I mentioned by name are definitely worth checking out because they were ones I’d never heard of but I found and stared at for long periods. I strongly encourage everyone to visit their local art museum once every few years, you never know what you’ll run into. Perfect example, I was not expecting to see those cubist pieces and it was amazing. Also, while you’re there, people watch hard because people watching at museums is some of the best people watching you can find (refer to Founder’s previous article). Overall, I had a great few hours at this place and I think academia can sour our concept of museums a little bit so I wanted to remind people that these are fascinating and inspiring places, go on your own time and I think you’ll find a much more rewarding experience for yourself.