Did you ever finally do something you’ve been meaning to do for forever and then kick yourself for taking so long to do it? Well that is me and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). I should have come here years ago.

My wonderful friend (since 1981!) and tour guide Anne took me to PAFA during our day in downtown Philadelphia. PAFA is located within a gorgeous building close to City Hall. It was built in 1805, the same year PAFA was founded.

PAFA was the first art museum and fine art school in the US.

PAFA entrance top

The entryway is even more gorgeous than the exterior. Sumptuous and extravagant are adjectives that are not out of place when describing the extraordinary museum interior.

PAFA allows you to take photos inside, and I took plenty of them.

PAFA interior entry

PAFA is internationally known for its collections of American artworks. The museum often groups the paintings like they would have been grouped in the 18th and 19th centuries.

You can see in the three paintings below that the groups work really well, making attractive art arrangements that are also easy to view individually.

PAFA paintings 1

PAFA paintings 2

PAFA paintings w woman sculpture

There are so many famous paintings at PAFA that it seems unfair to pick out any for special mention. I will just note my two favorite paintings below.

The first favorite is Cat Boats, Newport by Childe Hassam (1901), an American Impressionist. The brushwork and illusion of light are just beautiful. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I would have been happy to take the painting home if I had an extra few million dollars.

PAFA Hassam

I found the painting below to be very striking: John F. Kennedy by Elaine de Kooning (1963). This work is on loan from the Smithsonian. It was commissioned by the Truman Library and completed after Kennedy’s death. I thought it had so much vibrancy and warmth, yet you can see the artist’s sadness.


I enjoyed PAFA and the entire day so much! I hope to be back to Philadelphia soon.