Only in a city as embarrassingly rich with art could a museum this sublime not be on the top of visitors’ lists. Founded in 1805, PAFA is the oldest art school in the US, founded by artists Charles Willson Peale and William Rush. It was meant to emulate the leading European art academies.
The museum’s main building was established in 1876 in an architecturally precious building designed by Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt. I feel an unnerving calm as I climb the building’s grand staircase, feeling the sweep of history, beauty and calculated symmetry in equal measure.
The permanent collection includes works by American masters like Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. Expansive landscapes and sculptures of founding fathers add to the beautiful sense of history and grace. Indeed, this may be my favorite building in the city!
The permanent collection includes more recent notables like Alex Katz, Robert Motherwell and Frank Stella. Curators don’t shy away from conceptual art.
The museum’s annex hosts rotating exhibits that highlight urban, public and contemporary art. Some are quite compelling.
And more recently, the museum has staged temporary art installations in its historic building, placing contemporary and diverse talents in conversation with the old white masters of the permanent collection.
PAFA is beautiful inside and out! Don’t miss this gem; it’s the jewel in the crown of the Avenue of the Arts.