When most people think of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, they think of the famous scene in Rocky where Sylvester Stallone finished his training run by sprinting up the stairs. It’s a great scene, and is currently memorialized with a statue in front of the building – but if that’s where your familiarity with the museum begins and ends, you’re missing out on quite a bit.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art began in 1919 and was completed in 1928, and designed by Horace Trumbauer’s firm, which also designed the Free Library of Philadelphia which is several blocks away. Situated atop a hill that overlooks the city, it was envisioned as the culmination of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (originally the Fairmount Parkway), which began construction in 1917 and was hoped to be Philadelphia’s version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The museum grew to consist of several buildings along the parkway totaling over one million square feet of space: the Perelman Building, the Rodin Museum, and Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove Park.
Over the years it has remained a nexus of classical and contemporary art in Philadelphia, with over 437,348 visitors in 2021 and 240,000 items on display in a collection that includes paintings and photography, furniture, arms and armor, tapestries, textiles, architectural objects, and more. Not counting the additional buildings, it is easy for a visitor to get caught up in one area and realize they’ve missed 90% of the museum – which is generally my favorite way to explore museums, as trying to absorb every collection can be exhausting. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to find specific artists or artwork. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has plenty of works by well-known sculptors and painters, including Manet, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, Chagall, and Duchamp, and there are also plenty of my personal favorites like Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Hubert Robert, and Andrew Wyeth.
If you go on a nice day, plan to spend a bit of time walking along Kelly Drive or visiting some of the places to eat in the area. It’s also close to Eastern State Penitentiary and a number of other museums including the Franklin Institute and the Barnes Foundation. Entrance fees vary but adults are typically $25, although the museum has “Pay What You Wish” admission on the first Sunday of every month and on every Friday night. When you’re done, you can still get a photo with the Rocky statue on your way out!
Matthew Christopher PA Philadelphia Oct 11, 2022 Arts Museums Places to Visit