Dr. Barnes began to acquire Dutch and Flemish paintings in the 1920’s as part of his mission to develop a new formalist teaching method based on the principles of light, line, color and space. In his Foundation, he hung his paintings in arrangements he called ‘ensembles’. Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Man Holding a Watch hangs amid figural paintings by Renoir, a juxtaposition that emerged from Barnes’ view that Renoir captured the vitality of everyday people. Another Golden Age collection highlight is Jan van Goyen’s landscape, The Square Watch Tower; Salomon van Ruysdael’s Rhine River View near Rhenen is displayed in the adjoining room. Barnes’ large assemblage of northern European portraiture includes an example by Hans Memling, but the earlier school is dominated by religious works. These include Crucifixion scenes by Juan de Flandes and Gerard David, the latter hanging nearby Lucas van Leyden’s triptych, the Adoration of the Magi. Barnes’ eclectic taste extended to Rubens: he purchased two oil sketches, King David Playing the Harp, a modello for a tapestry, and the dynamic and conceptually ambitious The Incarnation as the Fulfilment of All the Prophecies.
Elena Greer, Curator (March 2020)