Albert Barnes bought a lot of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It’s the largest collection in the world. Less famously, Barnes bought ceramic works by Renoir’s son Jean, but his ceramics were largely forgotten once Jean became one of the world’s greatest film directors.
In May, the Barnes Foundation will bring together paintings by Renoir père, and film, costumes, photographs, posters, and other memorabilia from the career of Renoir fils, along with some of his ceramics. It is one of several exhibitions at Philadelphia-area museums that focus on the family and friends of famous artists.
Two others are already underway. The Michener Museum has a show of the work of Henriette Wyeth, daughter of N.C. Wyeth and sister of Andrew Wyeth, and her husband Peter Hurd. Andrew Wyeth learned his characteristic egg tempera technique from his brother-in-law. And the Brandywine Museum of Art is showing a retrospective by George “Frolic” Weymouth, a neighbor, friend, and sometime student of Wyeth’s who was a founder and longtime chairman of the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Museum of Art continues its exploration and repackaging of its permanent collection with a show of early 20th-century American modernists.
Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective (Through May 6, Michener Art Museum). Henriette Wyeth is known for her portraits and large-scale psychologically fraught landscapes, and Hurd for landscapes of New Mexico where he grew up and the couple lived. It includes more than 100 works by Wyeth, Hurd, and other family members. (215-340-9800, michenerartmuseum.org)
The Way Back: The Paintings of George A. Weymouth (Through June 3, Brandywine River Museum of Art). Joseph Rishel, a distinguished longtime curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, selected the works to be shown by his friend Weymouth, who was perhaps best known for his flamboyant personality. The exhibition makes the case for his paintings, which were heavily influenced by Andrew Wyeth, but which have a character of their own. (610-388-2700, brandywine.org/museum)
Keith Haring: Symbolic Gestures (Through April 15, Reading Public Museum). Haring became famous for his work on the streets and subways of New York, but he grew up in Kutztown, and the Reading Museum first exhibited him in 1976, long before he was a star. This retrospective will include some very early work, along with others that feature the radiant babies and other motifs for which the artist is known. (610-371-5850, readingpublicmuseum.org)
Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show (Through March 25, Institute of Contemporary Art). Leibowitz, alias “Candyass,” became known in the 1990s for his eclectic brightly colored works and installations that explored both Jewish and queer identity. A related exhibition at ICA is Tag: Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward (through Aug. 12), a group show cocurated by the prominent local collectors Katherine and Keith Sachs and artist Nayland Black that, according to ICA, “explores how the expanding influence of digital and online technologies, fandom subcultures, and artistic discourse has created new possibilities for queer identification.” (215-573-9975, icaphila.org)
Charles Santore: Fifty Years of Art and Storytelling (Feb. 17-May 13, Woodmere Art Museum). This is the first career retrospective of the Philadelphia-born illustrator. It begins with his 1960s commercial work and continues to his recent illustrations of children’s classics. The cast of characters ranges from Columbo to his 2017 version of Alice in Wonderland. (215-247-0476, woodmereartmuseum.org)
Keith Smith at Home (Feb. 17-July 8, Philadelphia Museum of Art). Though he first won recognition as a photographer, Smith is best known for making books that mix media, and incorporate high culture and low. This exhibition is the first monographic museum show to look at a career that spans half a century. (215-763-8100, philamuseum.org)
First Academies: Benjamin West and the Founding of the Royal Academy of Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (March 2-June 3, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). West (1738-1820), who was born in what is now Swarthmore and grew up in Newtown Square, left for London to study art and became successful so quickly he never came home. He was a founder and second president of London’s Royal Academy, and he also supported, from a distance, the creation of an academy in Philadelphia. The exhibition, which features about 80 works, examines the role of the academies, and celebrates some of the other American artists who were influential in PAFA’s founding and growth. (215-972-7600, pafa.org)
Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin (March 10-May 27, Delaware Art Museum). John Ruskin was one of the most influential critics of the Victorian era in England, but he also devoted himself to closely observed drawings of nature. A selection of drawings on loan from the Ruskin Library in England will be paired with drawings by Wyeth, another careful limner of dry sticks and bare branches. (302-571-9590, delart.org)
Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950 (April 18-Sept. 3, Philadelphia Museum of Art). Early 20th-century art — long prized as much for its documentary value as for its aesthetic quality — is in a period of reappraisal. The Art Museum has a large and distinguished collection, especially of the artists associated with Alfred Stieglitz such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove. The show will emphasize painting and sculpture, but there will be prints, drawings, photographs, and costume as well. (215-763-8100, philamuseum.org)
Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling (April 27-Aug. 26, Fabric Workshop and Museum). This highly regarded German sculptor is known for very finely crafted works executed at a very large scale. Her best known works are made of cedar, though a new work she is creating for this retrospective will be made of leather. It will include many works never before exhibited in the United States. (215-561-8888 fabricworkshopandmuseum.org). In addition, beginning on the same date, Now, She: Two Sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard, a pair of large outdoor works, will go on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s sculpture garden, for about a year.
Renoir: Father and Son / Painting and Cinema — (May 6-Sept. 3, Barnes Foundation). “I have spent my life trying to determine the extent of the influence of my father upon me,” Jean Renoir once wrote. This exhibition will explore connections between the art of the impressionist painter and his filmmaker son, in part by showing clips from Jean Renoir’s films adjacent to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s paintings. (215-278-7200, barnesfoundation.org)
Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking (May 19-Sept. 23, Princeton University Art Museum). This exhibition focuses on four major series of prints done by the artist, best known for his geometric paintings, between 1984 and 1999 and based on literary works. The premise of the show is that these works mark a transformation of Stella’s style, and also changed contemporary printmaking. This show will include 41 of the large-scale prints, and their literary inspirations. (609-258-3788, artmuseum.princeton.edu)
American Moderns: The Legacy of Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest (June 2-Oct. 21, Michener Art Museum). This small show is a sort of regional companion to the Art Museum’s “Modern Times” show. Its premise is that while Philadelphia-area artists of the early 20th century are most often identified with American impressionism, some were committed, experimental modernists. (215-340-9800, michenerartmuseum.org)
Natural Wonders: the Sublime in Contemporary Art (June 23-Oct. 21, Brandywine River Museum of Art). This extremely promising group show of a dozen major contemporary American artists focuses on artists’ view of nature in the increasingly unnatural world of the early 21st century. (610-388-2700, brandywine.org/museum)