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Releases: Expanded View

Sep 24 2013

Philadelphia Marks Its Modernist—And French—Moment

Visitors Can Celebrate The Philadelphia Museum Of Art’s Léger Exhibit By Discovering The City’s Many Connections To The Artist & His Style

The Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis exhibition opens on October 14, 2013 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)—its only American showing—and visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to explore the metropolis of Philadelphia and its many modernist and French connections. The exhibit, which runs through January 4, 2014, includes 160 works, centered on Léger’s post-Cubist masterpiece The City (1919), as well as pieces by other renowned artists of the period such as Mondrian, Cassandre and van Doesburg. Outside the PMA, visitors can turn their attention to the region’s many French cultural, gastronomic and architectural influences of the period, including the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, planned and completed in 1929 and designed by two Frenchmen with Paris’s Champs-Élysées in mind.

Louvre-worthy Art:

  • Besides hosting Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis in fall 2013, the iconic PMA counts significant works by modern and French masters among its more than 227,000-piece collection, including impressionist galleries on the first floor renowned for many Monets and Manets. Nearby, masterpieces by Van Gogh and Cezanne present a bridge to the modern and contemporary galleries that offer a big panorama on the Paris avant-garde of the teens and 1920s, with masterpieces not only by Léger, but also by Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi and Duchamp. On the second floor are galleries of French decorative arts, many of which are historic rooms that convey the styles and splendors of past centuries. 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100,
  • Part of the PMA, the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building presents The Surrealists: Works from the Collection, an exhibition of more than 70 works gathered from throughout the PMA. The show, which runs from November 3, 2013 through March 14, 2014, includes pieces from more than 40 artists, including Salvador Dalí, Joan Miro and Max Ernst. Fairmount Avenue & Pennsylvania Avenue, (215) 763-8100,
  • The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) was turning out distinctly American modern artists in the period between World War I and II. Two of the most famous Philadelphia artists who trained at PAFA were Charles Sheeler and Morton Schamberg. During the PMA’s Léger show, PAFA will exhibit works by Arthur B. Carles, John Sloan, Robert Henri, Henry McCarter and Charles Sheeler. 128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600,
  • Located on the culturally rich Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the newly relocated Barnes Foundation allows the world’s largest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings and African sculpture to be viewed as intended. The museum is home to the largest collection of Renoir works (181) in the world and boasts plenty of Cézanne (69) and Matisse (59) works as well. Reservations are highly suggested. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7000,
  • One of the greatest collections of Rodin’s work outside of Paris, the Rodin Museum underwent a massive renovation to its building, galleries and grounds in 2012. The space is now restored to its original vision, and many of the sculptures have been returned to their intended places in the museum’s exquisite French garden. 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100,
  • Housed in an 1860s townhouse on Rittenhouse Square, the Rosenbach Museum & Library’s collection of rare books and letters includes copper miniatures painted by French artists and significant holdings in French literature. Visitors can marvel at everything from an illuminated manuscript of Guillaume de Deguilleville’s Trois pélerinages (1437) to manuscripts by Emile Zola and Anatole France. 2008-2010 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600,

Magnificent Murals & Muralism:
A lover of outdoor advertising, Léger believed in painting the walls of the city in bright colors. The artist considered his monumental painting The City a mural painting for two reasons: because of its grand scale and because he felt it spoke to a mass audience.

  • Started as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network in 1984, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program offers a variety of tours of the city’s more than 3,600 indoor and outdoor murals. Tour-goers can see the city’s colorful walls during a mile-long audio walking tour of Center City, trolley tours through diverse neighborhoods and the Love Letter tour, which uses the Market-Frankford Line as its mode of transportation—just to name a few. Most tours depart from the Mural Arts at The Gallery location, complete with a ticket office, exhibit space and retail store. 901 Market Street, level 2, (215) 925-3633,
  • Beyond The Paint: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts, on view from November 16, 2013 through April 6, 2014 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, celebrates the work of 30 years of community-engaged art creation in Philadelphia. Through the inspirational and innovative Mural Arts Program (above), thousands of residents have participated in the creation of more than 3,600 murals—a testament to the talent in the city and the power of community. 128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600,

Awe-Inspiring Architecture:
As a response to the modernism sweeping Europe and Paris after the First World War, Philadelphia artists and architects were rethinking their styles in a city that was already becoming a post-industrial metropolis.

  • Paul Philippe Cret, an émigré from Lyon, planned the Benjamin Franklin Parkway lined with statuary, trees and museums, while French landscape architect Jacques Greber designed it. Constructed from 1917 until the 1930s, much of the Ben Franklin Parkway was modeled after Paris’s Champs-Élysées, creating a grand boulevard that once overlapped with several gritty neighborhoods. From 15th to 26th Street
  • George Howe’s landmark PSFS Building (1930-1932)—the first International Style skyscraper in the country—contributed to the changing character of Philadelphia. Now the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, the building is considered the finest example of 20th-century architecture in the city, with its cool black granite base and cantilevered strip windows. 12th & Market Streets
  • Designed by Wilson Eyre, Swann Fountain’s (1921-1924) three main figures, sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder, represent the city’s major waterways: the Delaware, Schuylkill and Wissahickon Rivers. Logan Circle, 19th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • Architect Horace Trumbauer modeled the Free Library of Philadelphia (1917-1927) after Ange-Jacques Gabriel’s twin palaces (the Ministere de la Marine and Hotel Crillon) in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Vine Street between 19th & 20th Streets
  • Constructed of Minnesota Dolomite and completed in 1928, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1916-1928) is the pinnacle of Beaux Arts craftsmanship in Philadelphia. Architects Horace Trumbauer, C. Clark Zantzinger and Charles L. Borie Jr. designed the building that crowns the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • In addition to designing the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Paul Philippe Cret and Jacques Greber created the Rodin Museum (1927-29), an excellent example of Cret’s mastery look. 22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • Although originally a wild tangle of trees and brush, Rittenhouse Square was gradually fine tuned by French-born architect Paul Philippe Cret in 1913. The central plaza of the park holds the dramatic Lion Crushing a Serpent by French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. Originally created in 1832 as an allegory of the French Revolution, with the power of good (the lion) conquering evil (the serpent), this bronze cast dates back to 1890. Between Walnut & Locust Streets and 18th & 20th Streets
  • Landmark Tours offer guided walking tours highlighting noteworthy buildings and architecture styles. Beaux-Arts and Art Deco tours show off gems like the flamboyant WCAU Building, now home to the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and the intimate residences along Rittenhouse Square. Tour locations vary. (215) 925-2251,
  • The Philadelphia Center for Architecture’s Emergence of a Modern Metropolis tour introduces participants to the city’s diverse range of architecture from the 1870s to the present, delving into the social, economic and political forces that shaped the modern cityscape. The two-hour tour runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from April through November and on Saturday from December through March. 1218 Arch Street, (215) 569-3186,
  • The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia offers 90- to 120-minute guided walking tours that interpret the past, present and future of the Philadelphia region as expressed through architecture, urban design and social history. The guided tours are available May through October, though self-guided tours are online year-round. 1616 Walnut Street, (215) 546-1146,
  • Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO gives people a fun way to experience 65 outdoor sculptures along Kelly Drive and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Passersby can listen to three-minute interpretive segments for free by using their cell phones and the program’s mobile app or as audio downloads or streaming audio from the website. About 100 people personally connected to the works reveal the untold histories of the art. (215) 399-9000,

Bon Appétit: Restaurants, Cafes & Pastry Shops:

  • A la Maison, an Old World Country-style bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) bistro in suburban Philadelphia, focuses on French comfort food, including boeuf bourguignon, seafood bouillabaisse and crepes. 53 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, (484) 412-8009,
  • Owned by Raphael de Bussy, a native of France, and his wife Linda, Bakers on Broad serves up more than a dozen types of artisan breads, along with pastries, pies, tarts and more. 503 E. Broad Street, Souderton, (215) 703-0518,
  • Beau Monde serves up sweet and savory Breton crepes at its charming Queen Village Beaux Arts-style bistro. Patrons can head upstairs to L’Etage for dancing, music and cocktails. 624 S. 6th Street, (215) 592-0656,
  • Chef Pierre Calmels, the brilliant mind behind Bella Vista BYOB spot Bibou, brings a pedigree that includes stints at New York’s Daniel and Philadelphia’s Le Bec-Fin. While the entire menu shines with sumptuous French-inspired gems like bone marrow and foie gras, the seven-course chef’s tasting menu is not to be missed. 1009 S. 8th Street, (215) 965-8290,
  • Chef Peter Woolsey, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and his wife Peggy, who hails from Dijon, preside over the charming Bistrot La Minette. Try the mustard-braised rabbit for dinner and Tarte Tatin for dessert. 623 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-8000,
  • With its spectacular views of the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, University City and the Cira Centre, Bistro St. Tropez offers a warm, South-of-Paris vibe and a recreation of classic dishes from chef/owner Patrice Rames’ childhood home in Provence. 2400 Market Street, 4th floor, (215) 569-9269,
  • Chef Olivier Desaintmartin, a native of the Champagne region of France, heads up the cozy Caribou Café, specializing in French comfort food like onion soup, steak frites and cassolette de champignons. The menu, which draws influence from the regions of Burgundy, Brittany and Lyon, changes seasonally. 1126 Walnut Street, (215) 625-9535,
  • From its name, which means pig in French, to its authentic menu of bistro specialties, including escargot and pork belly, Cochon is a family-owned BYOB that’s a French favorite. 801 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 923-7675,
  • BYOB spot La Crêperie Café serves up sweet and savory crepes for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. French specialties like quiche Lorraine, salade niçoise and crème brulée round out the mouthwatering menu. 1722 Sansom Street, (215) 564-6460,
  • A French bakery across from the train station in Narberth, Le Petit Mitron serves the best croissants, pastries and tortes this side of the Left Bank. In true French fashion, this eatery is closed for the entire month of August. 207 Haverford Avenue, Narberth, (484) 562-0500,
  • Gourmet desserts, sophisticated sweets and artisan chocolates line the cases at Miel Patisserie. Patrons can indulge in everything from chocolate-covered caramels to decadent Marjolaine, a cake layered with flavors like chocolate, vanilla, praline, hazelnut and almond. 204 S. 17th Street, (215) 731-9191,
  • Providing a unique marriage of delicious cultural influences, chef-owner Adán Saavedra fuses classical French cooking technique with flavors from his native Mexico at Paloma. The result is a menu of elevated Mexican cuisine prepared using high-quality ingredients and delivered with stunning presentation. 763 S. 8th Street, (215) 928-9500,
  • Parc, prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr’s ode to the bustling French brasserie, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Enjoy the likes of duck confit, bouillabaisse and trout amandine indoors, or, when weather permits, on the café sidewalk overlooking Rittenhouse Square. Don’t miss the profiteroles for dessert. 227 S. 18th Street, (215) 545-2262,
  • A welcome addition to Philadelphia’s craft beer and cocktails movement, Paris Wine Bar serves up local, Pennsylvania-produced wines in a charming setting that is distinctly French. In addition to a rotating selection of “draught” wines, the menu features French-inspired dishes created by Chef Michael McNally. 2303 Fairmount Avenue, (215) 978-4545,
  • Rouge, the first bistro on Rittenhouse Square and in the entire city for that matter, offers sidewalk seating and an intimate, sexy vibe that draws a fiercely loyal regular crowd. While chef Sam Noh cooks up an American menu with Asian influences, the ambiance is unmistakably French. 205 S. 18th Street, (215) 732-6622,
  • Originally a historic inn dating back to 1763, Savona features Chef Andrew Masciangelo’s inspired cuisine, capturing the culinary spirit of the French Riviera and focusing on the use of local and seasonal ingredients. Plus, there are more than 1,000 wines on the restaurant’s extensive list. 100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills, (610) 520-1200,
  • Tucked away in Conshohocken, Spring Mill Café serves French Provençal specialties like boeuf bourguignon and rabbit stew, along with a hefty side of charm and romance. 164 Barren Hill Road, Conshohocken, (610) 828-2550,
  • Chefs Todd Braley and Daniela D’Ambrosio met while working at The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia and went on to open The Pickled Heron, a delightful, French-inspired bistro in Fishtown. The friendly spot cooks up unique dishes like crispy duck cutlet, and the décor showcases the work of a different local artist each month. 2218 Frankford Avenue, (215) 634-5666,
  • Romantic New French eatery Zinc specializes in seafood from chef/owner Olivier Desaintmartin. Locals love the restaurant for its intimate vibe, creative cuisine and sexy bar. 246. S. 11th Street, (215) 351-9901,

Bonjour, Bonsoir: Hotels:

  • The European-style AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia includes the Fountain Restaurant, a sophisticated dining experience rooted in fine New French and contemporary cuisine. Consistently Zagat-rated number one for food, service and ambiance, the Fountain Restaurant offers romantic views of the Swann Fountain on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 1 Logan Square, (215) 963-1500,
  • Originally a YMCA, the chic Le Méridien Philadelphia from Starwood’s European-inspired brand is home to Amuse, a brasserie and bar featuring lusty French fare such as escargots, frisee aux lardons and onion soup gratinee. Diners with a sweet tooth can indulge in the peanut butter mousse. 1421 Arch Street, (215) 422-8200,
  • The luxury AAA Five Diamond Rittenhouse Hotel overlooking Rittenhouse Square includes Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, an elegant international restaurant with park views. The Impressionist-themed Mary Cassatt Tearoom and Garden, a tranquil setting once painted by the Philadelphia-born French-inspired painter, offers the perfect atmosphere to relax over afternoon tea. 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, (215) 546-9000,
  • The Philadelphia outpost of the French-owned Sofitel Philadelphia blends French elegance with American amenities and convenience. The hotel’s restaurant Chez Colette is a charming brasserie serving French cuisine in a 1920s-style atmosphere, and Liberté Urban Chic Lounge is a stylish lobby bar for meeting friends and colleagues. 120 S. 17th Street, (215) 569-8300,

The With Art Philadelphia collaborative is a first-of-its-kind partnership to position Philadelphia among the world’s great art destinations and to increase visitation to the region from around the world. The groups that have contributed financial and other resources to the campaign are: the City of Philadelphia, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology), Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Lenfest Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Knight Foundation, Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, PNC and PECO.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit or, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.

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