Philadelphia's Barnes Collection: Treasures from the American Southwest with Jayne Yantz

Philadelphia's Barnes Collection: Treasures from the American Southwest with Jayne Yantz


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One of the great treasures found in Philadelphia’s “Museum Mile” along Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Barnes Collection, world-famous for its modern art.  Unexpectedly tucked into the exhibition of works by Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso, there are fabulous objects from the North American Desert Southwest. Albert Barnes began collecting Native American objects in the 1930s and, as he was known to do, threw himself into the project—traveling to the Southwestern United States, meeting artists, attending rituals, and buying, buying, buying.  Barnes' expeditions were made in the 1930s, which was a time when few other Americans could afford to buy art at this scale. 

Our conversation will highlight a series of amazing objects from America’s Desert Southwest found at the Barnes Foundation, place these objects in their cultural context, and narrate the story of how these objects became part of the museum collection.  We will see jewelry, ceramics, and rugs from Navajo and Pueblo artists among the treasures. From jewelry, we will examine squash blossom necklaces, their origins, and their meaning; from Pueblo water jars, we will examine the symbolism related to water and life.  We will also briefly look at how Barnes chose to display these objects among his modern paintings and other collectibles.

As part of our conversation, we will consider works highlighted in a recent major show held at the Barnes, Water, Wind, Breath, which explored Barnes’ fascination with the Desert Southwest. This show included traditional Native American works from the Barnes collection and modern works by contemporary Pueblo and Navajo artists who draw on past traditions to make contemporary art that speak to the 21st century--something that would surely resonate with Albert Barnes. One example is Strong Heart, crafted by Santa Clara Pueblo artist Roxanne Swentzell.  This ceramic of a young girl touching both her heart and the earth was made specifically for the Barnes show and welcomes us to share in an understanding of world views that continue today. 

Led by Art Historian Jayne Yantz, this conversation examines Barnes’ most endearing masterpieces from the Native American Desert Southwest. At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will have encountered not just artistic treasures but also insight into their meaning and historical context. This conversation is designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels to the Barnes Foundation—and perhaps to the Desert Southwest. 

Jayne Yantz completed graduate work in art history and anthropology before beginning a career in college teaching. She specializes in non-Western art and European Old Masters, has traveled extensively to see the works of art she teaches, and believes it is important to continue learning throughout life. Jayne has received continued recognition for teaching excellence, including the Teacher of the Year award from her college. She currently lives in the New Jersey Pinelands on a nature preserve.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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