Philadelphia Museum of Art: One accustomed to the sleek elegance of the National Gallery's East Building as well as the gallery's overall quality as a place to view great works of art, with its fine lighting and consistent cleanliness, may be disappointed at first by Philadelphia's best museum. There is so much to see here, and yet the museum, on a promontory overlooking the Schuykill River and the boathouses along its banks, in some cases suffers from inadequate display. A fine Reubens hangs in a tiny, dark hallway. A reconstructed Japanese teahouse is so ill-kempt it seems to have been transported to downtown Hong Kong.
Neverthelss, the museum is not to be missed. A little dirt and some weak lighting should deter no one from inportant works by Thomas Eakins, Jan van Eyck, Marcel Duchamp, Rogier van der Weyden and Pablo Picasso, to name but a few. Among the 30 works by Duchamp are "Nude Descending a Staircase," which scandalized the famous Armor exhibition, and "The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes," whose title is enough to drop the royal jowls straight to the doily.
Also featured are Giorgio De-Chirico's "The Soothsayer's Recompense" and a 12th-century romaneque fountain from the abbey of Saint Michel de Cusa. "Bust of a Young Man" by Antonello de Messina, "Study of an Old Jew" by Crel Fabritius and "Young Woman Seated in a Chamber" by Dirick Hals are worth braving far more than the annoyances of poor lighting.
The roots of this museum are in colonial objects d'art and reconstructed colonial and British rooms, and the museum remains exceedingly strong in these areas. A recent exhibition of protographs of Tibet was also extraordinary and beautifully displayed.
26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, open Tuesday-Sunday, 10-5.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Eakins taught here after he had established his reputation in the art world. The academy opened in 1805 and was the first American institution to hold regular public exhibitions. It used to be that Mondays were designated as "ladies day" so that women would not have to view nude statues in mixed company. The paractice has since ceased. The permanent collection features American painters such as Gilbert Stuart, Benjamin West, John Vanderlyn and Charles Wilson Peale. Perhaps of greatest interest is the academy of itself, an elegant Victorian building.
Broad and Cherry streets, Philadelphia. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5, Sundays and holidays, 1-5; closed some holidays and August.
University Museum, University of Pennsylvania: One of the best museums of archaeology and anthropology in the country. A university expedition to Babylon was the impetus for this museum. Highlights include a ritual carved wood deer from a prehistoric site on Marco Island, Fla., a fresco from the Buddhist Moon Hill Monastery, bas-reliefs from Emperor T'ang T'ai T'sung's tomb and numerous pieces from the Belgian Congo and West Africa. The museum is broken up into geographical categories, a method tht gives the visitor a chance to compare how and when certain artifacts appeared in various cultures.
33rd and Spruce streets, Phladelphia. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5, and Sunday, 1-5, closed Mondays and holidays.
The Barnes Foundation: In the Main Line town of Merion, west of Philadelphia, the Barnes collection is especially strong in Frnech Impressionism, featuring 100 Cezannes, 200 Renoirs, 60 Matisses and a number of paintings from Picasso's blue and rose periods. Albert C. Barnes, the "Argyrod King," sent painter William Glackens off to Europe with $20,000 to buy paintings. Glackens had to part with only a fraction of his cash to obtain Van Gogh's "The Postman." By the time he died in 1951, Barnes had amassed a huge, electic collection that now fills the building's 13 gallery rooms.
300 N. Latch's La., Merion, Pa. Closed July and August and legal holidays. Open Friday and Saturday, 9:30-4:30. Reservations recommended.