Sunday, July 3, was the final day to visit the Barnes collection in its original home in Merion, Pennsylvania. Founder Albert Barnes, a famously voracious collector, was buying art at the same time as Duncan Phillips. Both gravitated towards French impressionists, post-impressionists, and modernists, especially Cézanne, Renoir, and Matisse. Surprisingly, the two men do not appear to have had any relationship or substantive exchange.
There certainly were affinities in their collections, but their methods could not have been more different. Phillips, a careful and strategic collector, purchased four works by Chaim Soutine between 1940 and 1951 and gave the painter his first American museum show in 1943. Barnes, by contrast and as the legend goes, visited Soutine in his studio in Paris in the early 1920’s and bought every painting in sight. Barnes collected Soutine first, but it was Phillips who presented the artist to the public in the distinctive form of a solo exhibition.