Seeing The World in Black and White. A Trip To The Barnes Foundation

I slept well last night–and am now ready to tell you about our Saturday adventure!

Bonaparte was really excited about an exhibition that is currently on display at the Barnes Foundation in Philly.   The exhibit, “Live and Life Will Give You Pictures: Masterworks of French Photography-1890 to 1950″ is a showcase of various French photographers from a private collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg.  He was excited because the exhibit includes some of his grandfather’s, Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s, photographs.


We purchased this Book at the foundation’s gift shop! It is a great insight into the wealthy (opposite of my) life of Bonaparte’s grandfather and family!

I was excited too, both happy and unhappy. I was thrilled with the photographs but pissed off that The Barnes Foundation misspelled Bonaparte’s grandfather’s name.  Check out the link and you’ll see the error: Barnes Foundation Exhibition Page!

Anyway, Saturday morning we woke up to gray and rainy skies—and I liked that. I thought it was appropriate for venturing into Center City to see an exhibit of black and white photography.


A rainy day in Philly –check out the guy on the bike to the right…..


Look at his two dogs in the basket! You just never know what fun sights you will see when in a city!

Since Saturday is also errand day, we got everything out of the way before ten in the morning.  That meant I got dressed and did my hair and makeup in record time.


Yes. Mr. Bonaparte, Hair Consultant was very happy with this look of bio and hair extensions! I am to please my Frenchman!

If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, might I suggest a visit to The Barnes Foundation when you make it to the City of Brotherly Love?  While it isn’t my favorite museum, the collection of art that Dr. Barnes amassed over the years is mind boggling!  Renoir, Van Gogh, Courbet, Manet—just to name a few.  It’s envious!


It doesn’t even look like Fall yet. It looks more like summer, but this is the outside  of The Barnes Foundation.


A long pathway leads to….


…the entrance.  The grounds remind me, in an odd way, of Fondation Maeght in France. It’s very peacful and calming.

And there is a reason it isn’t my favorite museum. The layout is a carbon copy of Dr. Barnes home—and he had small rooms. And all the works of art were displayed in the walls in the small rooms. On a weekend, those rooms get really really crowded. Photographing the paintings is forbidden.  I’m a sucker for beautiful art and I was too much of a wimp to even attempt to snap a pic with my phone.


Put 25 to 30 people in this room and it is like a subway car.  See the borders on the floor? You can’t step over them. But look at those Renoirs. It is astounding!  BTW, I did NOT take this pic–it’s from the Barnes Foundation’s site!

In addition, there are “borders” on the floor of the rooms. These borders serve as boundaries that you must not step over or you will be reprimanded for going too close to the art.  And, as I am one inch away from having Chippy attend seeing-eye dog classes, it was a challenge for me to get a closer view of many of the paintings I so admire!

But-those issues aren’t deal breakers because the paintings and other objet d’arts are worth going to see. It is that spectacular.


A lovely surprise in the entry way of the building…


…and to tell you the truth, this isn’t a bad little gift shop to get some early Christmas shopping done!

Luckily, we were able to take pictures of the pictures at the exhibition!  And what an exhibit it was!     Let’s take a look–shall we?


I love this photograph by Man Ray–and how the two sets of lips meeting compose another set of lips!


One of my favorite Lartigue photos. She gets around, this Anna–I have her on a wall at home!



Jean Cocteau–and he’s always smoking!


These two guys look like a barrel of fun.  But look at how they are dressed!  Top hats and morning suits–to ride in a balloon. Times have changed!


Another Man Ray photo. Isn’t it timeless?  


Bonaparte is carefully studying his family photos. I decided to snap him in black and white! It was more fun that way. I wish I could have “seen” in black and white. Would’t it be great to shut off the ability to see in color every now and then and see the world through black and white? Not all the time though.


Bonaparte’s cousin. She lived dangerously sliding down that banister in a long skirt! It would have been wrapped around my neck if I tried that!


Another cousin in the old-timey equivalent of an all-terrain vehicle! Who said the French are too serious?

You know, I go through a lot of emotions looking at these old photos.  First off, I love black and white photography because there is a touch of mystery. It’s fun trying to imagine the skin tones and the colors of the hair of the people in the photos. It’s a good workout of the mind trying to visualize the colors of the clothing, buildings, countryside and everything else. And there are so many hues and shades of blacks, grays, whites, creams, sepias.




I just about screamed with delight when I found out Picasso had a place on the same street as Daniele!

It’s also quite enchanting and eerie at the same time. Let’s face it—people look so serious that it’s downright scary at times!  But it is sweet to see the beauty and how people lived in lost times!


Prostitutes in Mexico. The brows on the one on the left are frightening. I would say the working gal on the right is the more classically-trained one!


I’m also a fan of this pic of a group of working girls.  Their well-rounded bodies should come back in style!


What I find fascinating about this lady of the evening is that she’s dressed in all natural fabric. No polyester or blends years back–and this isn’t that far back!

Old photos are a visual history lesson.


I LOVED this photograph–just everything about it. The Dubonnet ads in the back make it so much more interesting.  


I also love this corset shop photo. Those waists are so tiny. Maybe I need one of those as part of my weight loss journey!


This is a self portrait of the photographer Brassai, who took most of the photos in this exhibition, in Eze. That was another fun aspect about this exhibition. It’s great to be familiar with many of the areas photographed!



Jean-Paul Sartre on the Pont des Arts..


…and a lone body getting ready for the climb up steps in Montmartre ..I wish I had photographed the entire exhibition!

It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours—and it was fun to imagine what Bonaparte’s family was like before losing their fortune to the Russians. Yeah. That’s right—the Russians!  Bonaparte’s great grandfather was a financier who owned a bank.  He, along with many wealthy Europeans, invested in a railroad that was to be built by the Russians. Sounds good. Right? Well, what they weren’t expecting was the Russian Revolution. And we all know the outcome of that!  Great-grandpa Lartigue and many others lost their fortunes.

I could have gotten a lot of shoes with that railroad money!!

The rest of the day was spent running more errands and then coming home to a wonderful French dinner of Rognons à la Moutarde-Kidneys in a Mustard Cognac Cream Sauce that I made especially for Bonaparte!

And what better way to end a post about photographs?  “Pictures At An Exhibition,  Movements 1 and 2”.  And composed by the Russian talent, Mussorgsky!  XOXOXO

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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30 Responses to Seeing The World in Black and White. A Trip To The Barnes Foundation

  1. hipchick66 says:

    This is one of my favorite posts, because b&w photography was my first art love. I miss it and do want to get back into it someday. My best painting is even b&w! I think there’s much more expresssion without the distraction of color. Thank you for sharing the exhibit as well, and I also like hearing about B’s fascinating family! Speaking of Man Ray, I have two prints of his hanging in my house 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Lori! I’m glad that this is one of your favorite posts! I’m telling you, I love B&W photos better than color. It’s true–without that distraction you do get to concentrate and focus more of the structure and composition as well. Yeah. B’s family is something else–what a history. My family’s history is so different. I think the half of my family that left Ireland for Australia were criminals!! LOL!! Oh god. i LOVE Man Ray!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  2. junedesilva says:

    Wow, what a great post! I love those black and white photos and such fascinating subjects.

  3. calensariel says:

    Sounds like a wonderful day. I know I sure enjoyed seeing the National Art Gallery in D.C. But I LOVED being able to see it by myself so I didn’t have to hurry through any of it.

    • Catherine says:

      Lady Calen!! Ohhhh! I LOVE the National Gallery in DC. Whenever Bonaparte are in DC for the weekend we ALWAYS stop by –it’s never boring. That’s one of my favorite art museums!!! XOXOXO!!!

  4. Beautiful pictures and Bonaparte must be very proud!

    Btw, my maternal grandfather was Russian and got his whole family executed during the revolution bc they were aristocrats and wealthy , luckily he managed to escape and ended up in Norway marrying my grandmother, and the little money he had left they lost during ww2 bc he was helping the resistance with food and hiding them on their estate.

    But he was betrayed so he and the family had to flee, otherwise he would be sent back to Russia and killed while my granny and the kids would’ve been sent to a labour camp, where they most probably would have died.

    So they had to run in the middle of the night, luckily my granny got her jewellery and furs with her so they could make a new start in a neighbour country were people spat at them! But gladly bought all the things she had…

    After the war their whole house and evering was destroyed, the Nazis had set the whole thing on fire and killed all the animals and sent the workers either to prison or the “lovely” camps.

    I think this is why I have a certain opinion about people like Trump and his followers who are not that different from the Nazis in my eyes…

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Maleandro! Wow! Your family’s history is just as interesting as Bonaparte’s!! I think that is why a LOT of us have a certain opinion of Trump. Bonaparte’s family went through hell and back during WWII. And every time I see B’s dad, Dany, he always mentions that WWII destroyed their family–ruined it. And he was right. Family members were sent away, B’s grandmother ended up at Ravensbruk but miraculously escaped, Dany was in a labor camp, ….and it was all because of one very evil man. Evil and charasmatic (and not the good kind). And Trump is exactly the same as his supporters are mesmerized by him. No matter how awful his words and actions are, his supporters just don’t care…I’m rambling. I’m sorry!!! But I get upset! XOXOXOXO!!!

  5. Love the B & W 😊

  6. I am so sorry! I just realized I did an unintentional hijacking of your blog, please forgive me if you can? But Russia and Trump seems to be triggers for me, and I truly apologize for my post!

  7. doodletllc says:

    Love the photographs but love them even more with your insightful comments…what a fun day.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Jeanne! Thanks–yes, my insights are better in print. B was becoming a bit annoyed at some of my commentary during the very QUIET of the exhibition. But he WAS thrilled today because I sent an e-mail to The Barnes Foundation pointing out the misspelling of Bonaparte’s grandfather and how shocked I was because they are supposed to be very detail oriented. I received a reply–they fixed it. B was thrilled!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  8. Margaret says:

    What a wonderful exhibit and how nice to see those charming photos from your hubby’s family! I love b&w also, the detail is so much more pronounced. Lucky you to have that museum nearby!

    I didn’t get a chance to comment on one of your earlier posts that included a photo at Tice’s Farm. I live not too far from there and also loved that place, and Van Riper’s Farm across the street. Unfortunately Van Riper’s closed by the early 1990’s and Tice’s closed in the late 1990’s. It’s now a strip mall with some nice stores and a Panera that I guess the developer stuck there as a consolation prize for all who complained. Do you remember DePierro’s Farm down the road from there? Well they sold to a developer earlier this year, who’s already cleared the land to make way for condos and possibly some retail. Seems like everything old around here is getting sold off and plowed over….. a different kind of ageism taking place 🙁

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Margaret! Yeah. I found out about Van Riper’s and Tice’s from my friend. I was really sad about that. We had great pre-Halloween times at both places. I didn’t know De Pierro’s closed? That’s disheartening! Development is all over the place. Our area was literally nothing ten years it’s development after development with no end in sight!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  9. Yvonne says:

    Hi Catherine, Such a great experience to be amongst family hanging at the Barnes Foundation. We are thinking about Philadelphia as an option for the Thanksgiving Weekend because it is on the train line, and after driving to Williamsburg not keen on eight lane highways for a while. (Well I wasn’t actually at the steering wheel just freaking out at every merging lane but I do that in Australia anyway.) I was hoping you may have some thoughts on where to stay. (ie what locality of the city). We will look at some country (not city) options as well. Pictures at an Exhibition so appropriate and reminds me of growing up and my parent’s record collection. Just think how restricted you would be if you wore a corset like that everyday – no eating and no housework! Cheers Y

    • Catherine says:

      Thanksgiving weekend downtown Philly is a zoo! It is the weekend of the Regional Irish Dance Oireachtas! Trust me, the Marriott is already filled to capacity and so is the Loew’s across the street! I know this from Oona’s years as an Irish Dancer–every Thanksgiving weekend from the time she was 9 until the time she was 21 was spent in that hotel. Wow…the last Oireachtas she competed in was 6 years ago! I’ll do some sleuthing for you. You might want to stay in South Philly, it’s kind of funky but in a good way! We leave for Paris that weekend!! Too bad or we could have met up!! XOXOXO!!!

  10. Yvonne says:

    PS forgot to say how much I looked the book cover. Reminds me of the scene in Chariots of Fire when Lord Lindsey’s butler places filled champagne glasses on the hurdles to hone his technique whilst training.

    • Catherine says:

      Yvonne. I would have loved to take a time machine back into the Lartigue family’s goings on back in those days of wealth! I would have fought to get myself on that cover!!!

  11. SusanD says:

    I also love old photographs especially when they are family ones. Bonaparte must feel so proud to see his old family photographs on display like this.

    When I saw the photograph looking out of the window I thought “that looks like the view from Danielle’s window” and then I saw it was also an apartment in Rue D’Augustins. Oh your blog has certainly had an effect on me!!


    • Catherine says:

      Susan! WOW!!! I thought the same thing!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh I’m so happy that this blog has had an effect on you–and a good one at that! Thank you so much!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  12. I bet you love D’Orsay. I took a photo of everything in there.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Dinata! The D’Orsay is my favorite museum of all time. I LOVE it so much better than the Louvre because it is extremely “doable”. You can do the Orsay in a day or less. The Louvre takes many, many visits. I’ll be back at the Orsay late next month too. I get to see my favorite Courbet paintings there—it is the best!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  13. mareymercy says:

    Great post! How nice of you to share your lovely day with us…I need to get myself to a museum soon. They’re always inspiring.

  14. Michael Mattis says:

    What a thrill that our show was visited by Lartigue’s grandson!! And your comments are extremely insightful. The woman on top who’s locking lips with her friend (to form a complete set of lips) is the legendary Lee Miller; Man Ray was obsessed with her lips! He had them floating in the sky in his most famous painting, check this out:

    Happy Thanksgiving and come back to the show! Michael Mattis & Judy Hochberg

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Michael!

      Thank you so much for commenting. I have to tell you–Bonaparte, aka, Vincent is beyond thrilled that you took the time to write! He also thanks you! He is also very grateful that you are taking such loving care with not only his grandfather’s photographs, but many others as well. We are fortunate to have some family photos taken by JH Lartigue but it is the pleasure of seeing the photos on public display that is the greatest pleasure. Oh..and Man Ray’s lips painting is epic–thank you for that link!! My favorite photos are the ones of the working girls–they don’t get enough love as far as I’m concerned!! Thanks again!!! XOXOXOXOXO

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