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Philadelphia Museum of Art Tour With Director Timothy Rub

Director and executive officer Timothy Rub talks about his favorites

(Content courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer)

With more than 200 galleries and 250,000 objects, it can be difficult to pick favorites at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with the museum’s director Timothy Rub about pieces that have captured his adoration.

Seine, Ellsworth Kelly, 1951; Gallery 175.
“This painting has been acquired by the museum in memory of Anne d’Harnoncourt,” Rub said. “It’s an example of how extraordinarily successful this museum has been in developing its collection and acquiring great works of art. The inspiration for this picture was the reflection of light on water. And here he’s turned that into a kind of wonderful, almost digital pattern of white, black, white, black. This is 1951. This is a radical thing.”

The Crucifixion, With the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning, Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1460; Gallery 206.
“This is the first picture I fell in love with at this institution. It has a monumental presence. But what makes it most moving and significant to me is the sense of resignation and gentleness in the figure of the dead Christ; the sadness and worship you see on the figure of Mary and the profound sense of sadness of Saint John. Deeply felt and still as moving today as it must have been 500 years ago.”

Scholar’s Study, China, late 18th century; Gallery 240.
“For me it is a remarkably satisfying and beautiful space, fully realized in every detail. It’s a wonderful way to enter magically into a different time and a different place.”

Pair of Andirons in the Form of Eagles, Pierre Gouthiere, 1781; Gallery 260.
“You’ve got to agree these are totally amazing, aren’t they? They are very muscular. See these dragons or serpents in their talons, each eagle standing on top of a burning torch. Then this gilt-bronze base which is a sophisticated example of neo-classical design. I’d sure like a pair for my house.”

Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1897; Gallery 116.
“It’s a beautiful painting of a beautiful woman for whom the artist felt deep affection.”

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1834; Gallery 292.
“I think this picture is astonishing. An example of Turner’s ability to render light and color and have the setting and the atmosphere blend imperceptibly in this wonderful film of color, light and dark, across the canvas.”

Room From the Powel House, c. 1769; Gallery 287.
“Look at how elegant this room is. Look at the ceiling, the cornice, the detail of the fireplace. This is a kind of summation – painting, architecture, decorative arts, silver, furniture of a moment in time when Philadelphia was arguably the leading city in the American colonies and a place of great sophistication and wealth.”

Nympheas, Japanese Bridge, Claude Monet, 1918-1926; Gallery 164.
“What you are seeing is the footbridge and in the background the landscape, and then the water below. It is a seamless orchestration of light and color in which it is hard to distinguish between figure and ground. It all becomes a kind of armature for this rich, brilliant and very daring and innovative use of color.”

The Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1950 (replica of 1917 original); Gallery 182.
“There is still a shock when you see the works of Duchamp and try to understand the radical nature of his art. I don’t want to single out a specific work, but I love The Fountain. It makes me laugh and it makes me go,‘wow!’ In 1917, taking that, putting it in a gallery, signing R Mutt on it; an extraordinary kind of subversive act, which had a lasting influence on the history of modern art.”

The Abduction of Europa, Noel-Nicolas Coypel, 1726: Gallery 283.
“I just love it because it is so lighthearted, so delicately choreographed and for me so characteristic of the spirit of the 18th century – the grace and delight and elegance. It’s almost as if you are looking at a performance on a stage.”

Staircase Group, Charles Willson Peale, 1795; Gallery 107.
“Everybody loves that picture. As a record of his sons and as a kind of invention – the trick of the eye, showing them going up the staircase – and the engagement and affection with which he painted those boys. It still brings a smile to one’s face today.”

Bird in Space (Yellow Bird), Constantin Brancusi, 1923; Gallery 188.
“One would be really hard pressed to pick a favorite amongst all these works by Brancusi, but if I’m forced to, then it is this. Because of its beauty and elegance of materials, its long, arc-shaped form, as well as its relationship to its very slender conical base. Really beautiful.”

Additional favorites from Rub without commentary:

Views from the Great Stair Hall Balcony second floor, facing east and the rear window in Gallery 247 facing west.

Horse Armor and Man Armor – horse, 1507; man, c.1505; Gallery 247.

Pair of elbow gauntlets, Lorenz Helmschmid c. 1445-1516; Gallery 245.

Vase (Maebyeong) with Lotus Blossoms, Korea, 12th century, Gallery 237.

Virgin and Child, Desiderio da Settignano, c.1455; Gallery 251.

Platter Depicting the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, Jean de Court, c. 1575-1585; Gallery 254.

Drawing room from Lansdowne House, Designed by Robert Adam, c. 1766-1775; Gallery 297.

Portrait of the Countess of Tournon, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1812; Gallery 299.

The Grands Boulevards, Pierre-August Renoir, 1875; Gallery 152.

The Effect of Fog, Camille Pissarro, 1888; Gallery 152.

The City, Fernand Leger, 1919; Gallery 169.

Mending the Net, Thomas Eakins, 1881. (This piece is about to be loaned.)

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