William Glackens (January 2021)

Photo of William Glackens in an artist's smock standing before an easel with paint brush and palette
William Glackens. Photo by Peter A. Juley & Son, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
William Glackens was an American realist painter, and one of the founders of the Ashcan School of American art. He is also known for his work in helping Albert Barnes (see below) to acquire his art collection. He established himself as an artist with his dark-hued, vibrantly painted street scenes and depictions of daily life in pre-WW I New York and Paris.  His later work was brighter in tone and showed the strong influence of Renoir.

colorful painting of children sledding  with adults in old-fashioned clothing
Central Park In Winter, C. 1905 by William James Glackens, image in public domain

William Glackens Impressionist scene, Central Park in Winter, with the bright colors of the children’s winter clothing, played off against the white snow filled with blue and violet shadows. Painted from on high, the view follows the course of the sleds and suggests a limitless play field for the children.

Glackens was born March 13, 1870  and passed away on May 22, 1938.


Black and white candid photo of Albert C. Barnes in sue and tie facing camera. Close up portrait shot
Albert C. Barnes from the Carl Van Vechten photographs collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Albert C. Barnes (January 2,  1872—July 24, 1951) was an American inventor of Argyrol (a compound to prevent blindness in infants) and a noted art collector, whose collection is a part of the Barnes Foundation Galleries. William Glackens helped him in acquiring this collection.

Barnes grew up in Philadelphia and attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School (M.D., 1892), supporting himself by tutoring, playing semiprofessional baseball, and boxing. In 1894–95 he attended schools in Germany to study advanced chemistry. When he returned to Philadelphia, he and a German chemist, Hermann Hille, devised the formula for Argyrol, from which Barnes made a fortune.

In 1905, Barnes built a mansion in Merion and began collecting paintings. In 1912 he asked his friend William J. Blackens, a former high-school classmate, to collect some Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in France. Encouraged by their success, he begin his own personal buying trips to Paris.  Over the years his collection grew to include dozens of paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso and more than a thousand other art treasures. He was one of the first American collectors to appreciate the art of Soutine and Modigliani.  Barnes’s taste also included the early American Modernists, Old Master drawings, African sculpture, and iron works.

The Barnes Foundation, housed in quarters next to his Merion home, was chartered on December 4, 1922, and opened in 1925. The 22-room structure displayed his collection in a highly personal manner unlike other museums. The foundation also was intended to promote art education by providing art classes.

In 2012, the collection moved to new purpose-built galleries in Philadelphia (designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien) that attempted to keep the art displayed in the manner Barnes had dictated. The Merion campus remained home to the institution’s archives, arboretum and horticulture program.


I’m passionate about art history, preservation and interpretation. In my down time, I volunteer at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, working with children and families by giving tours and sharing my love of art with them. I’d love to hear from you, if you have thoughts of your own to share. Feel free to message me or comment.