Founded in 1805, this is the oldest art museum and art school in America. The result of a financial and ideological collaboration between painter Charles Wilson Peale, sculptor William Rush and other artists and business leaders, the Academy spent six decades shuffling amongst different locations before finally settling into its present home in 1876.
Housed in the distinctive castle-like Furness-Hewitt Building and opened as part of Philadelphia’s Centennial celebrations, the Academy continues to feature a curriculum designed in the late 19th century by realist painter, photographer and sculptor (and former Academy student) Thomas Eakins. Now affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, the Academy’s faculty has included famous artists like illustrator Alphonse Mucha, and the student body once included painter Maxfield Parrish and film director David Lynch.
Spread over 11 different galleries, the museum features a large array of rotating exhibits, mostly focused on the work of contemporary American artists. The museum’s permanent collection of works by a wide range of American artists dates from the 1760s onward, and is displayed in chronological and thematic order. Be sure not to miss The Landsdowne Portrait, a famous 1796 oil painting of George Washington.