About Violette de Mazia

The Beginning 

Born in Paris in 1896, Violette de Mazia studied art in the studio of Robert Christie at Hampstead Conservatory, the Camden School of Art, and London Polytechnic School in England. When she moved to the United States in the 1920s, she continued her studies by enrolling in philosophy and art appreciation classes taught by Dr. Thomas Munro at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania.

The Barnes Foundation 

Soon after those initial classes, Dr. Albert C. Barnes offered de Mazia a teaching position. At the Foundation, de Mazia taught, wrote, met with artists, and traveled to Europe for study, museum visits, and to assist with art purchases. She worked closely with Barnes and his colleagues, including Columbia University Professor John Dewey, philosopher George Santayana, art dealer Paul Guillaume, and the painters William Glackens and Alfred Henry Maurer.

The Educator 

Over the years, de Mazia became the driving force behind the art education program, developing an original program of study that, based on awards and honors she received, was considered a significant approach to the understanding of art. Ms. de Mazia was named Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation in 1950.

Following the death of Barnes in 1951, de Mazia was appointed trustee and Director of Education for life and taught the methodology to students of the Foundation. Under Ms. de Mazia, students learned about the aesthetic principles of paintings, but also that those same principles equally apply to music, literature, drama, architecture, fashion, gastronomy, athletics, and any other aspect of human activity.

In addition to teaching, de Mazia co-authored four books and wrote a number of essays. Among the many public accolades, de Mazia received honorary degrees from St. Joseph’s University, La Salle University, Moore College of Art and Design, and Lincoln University.

The Legacy 

Ms. de Mazia’s personal art collection was auctioned in 1989 and the proceeds created what is now known as The Violette de Mazia Foundation, a charitable and educational organization that promotes the understanding and appreciation of art. The Foundation develops and underwrites programs, projects, and activities that are consistent with its mission: to advance, teach, study, promote and otherwise support the aesthetics and appreciation of art based on the theories, methods, and approaches of Albert C. Barnes, John Dewey and Violette de Mazia.

In view of Violette de Mazia’s long standing, historical connection with The Barnes Foundation, and the Foundation’s commitment to aesthetic education, The Violette de Mazia Foundation continues to be an important contributor to and supporter of the Barnes Foundation.

The Timeline

1896   Violette de Mazia is born in Paris. Her formal education as well as her art schooling takes her to France, Belgium and England.

1920s   Violette de Mazia arrives in the United States. She is given a teaching position at The Barnes Foundation by its founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes, for whom she organizes and develops an original program of study. This program becomes, what is today, the most significant approach to the understanding of art.

1935   Violette de Mazia is appointed Trustee of the Barnes Foundation.

1950   Violette de Mazia becomes Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation, a position she maintains until her death in 1988.

1970   Using The Journal of The Barnes Foundation of the 1920s as her model, she initiates publication of The Barnes Journal of the Arts Department to be followed by VISTAS in 1979.

1988   Violette de Mazia dies after a long illness; she was still writing on the morning of her death.

1991   The Violette de Mazia Trust is established by decree of de Mazia’s will from proceeds of her estate. It is dedicated to her memory and to the continuation of her lifelong work as an educator.

1998   2004 The Trust underwrites and sponsors classes at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA that are academically accredited by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. All student tuition is underwritten by the Violette de Mazia Trust.

2005   The Trust becomes a Foundation with an elected Board of Directors – its mission remains the same.

2006 – 2010   The Foundation continues to further its mission by presenting courses to students at fifteen different venues throughout the region, as well as expanding our mission to include a youth aesthetic education program.

The Achievements

Merion: Barnes Foundation Press

  • Barnes, Albert C. and Violette de Mazia. The French Primitives and Their Forms, 1931
  • Barnes, Albert C. and Violette de Mazia. The Art of Renoir, 1963
  • Barnes, Albert C. and Violette de Mazia. The Art of Henri-Matisse,1963
  • Barnes, Albert C. and Violette de Mazia. The Art of Cézanne, 1967

Essays –
Published in The Barnes Foundation Journal of the Art Department:: “Method,” Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1970, “What to Look for in Art,” Volume 1, Number 2, Autumn, 1970; “Aesthetic Quality,” Volume II, Number 1, Spring, 1971; “The Case of Glackens vs. Renoir,” Volume II, Number 2, Autumn, 1971; “Learning to See,” Volume III, Number 1, Spring, 1972; “Creative Distortion,” Volume III, Number 2, Autumn, 1972; “Creative Distortion: The Case of the Levitated Pear,” Volume IV, Number 1, Spring, 1973; “Creative Distortion: III. In Portraiture,” Volume IV, Number 2 Autumn, 1973; “Creative Distortion IV: Portraiture II,” Volume V, Number 1, Spring 1974; “Expression,” Volume V, Number 2, Autumn, 1974; “The Decorative Aspect in Art,” Volume VI, Number 1, Spring, 1975; “Three Aspects of Art,” Volume VI, Number 2, Autumn, 1975; “E Pluribus Unum,” Volume VII, Number 1, Spring, 1976; “E Pluribus Unum—Cont'd,” Volume VII, Number 2, Autumn, 1976; “Naiveté,” Volume VII, Number 2, Autumn, 1976; “E Pluribus Unum—Cont'd: Part III,” Volume VIII, Number 1, Spring, 1977; “E Pluribus Unum—Cont'd: Part IV,” Volume VIII, Number 2, Autumn, 1977; “What's In A Frame?,” Volume VIII, Number 2, Autumn, 1977; “Corrigenda,” Volume VIII, Number 2, Autumn, 1977; “Transferred Values: Part I—Introduction,” Volume IX, Number 2, Autumn, 1978; Da Capo: Prometheus' Unwittingly Solicited Encore, Winter, 1978-197

Published in Vistas: “Transferred Values: Part II,” Volume I, Number 1, Spring-Summer, 1979; “Transferred Values: Part III,” Volume I, Number 2, Autumn, 1979-1980; “Subject and Subject Matter,” Volume II, Number 1, Spring-Summer, 1980; “Subject and Subject Matter: Part II,” Volume II, Number 2, 1981-1982; “The Barnes Foundation - The Display of its Art Collection,” Volume II, Number 2, 1981-1982; “Subject and Subject Matter: Part III,” Volume III, Number 1, 1984-1986; “Tradition: An Inquiry - A few Thoughts,” Volume III, Number 1, 1984-1986; “The Lure and Trap of Color Slides in Art Education,” Volume III, Number 1, 1984-1986; “A Timely Reminiscence,” Volume III, Number 2, 1987-1988; “A Last Minute Addendum,” Volume III, Number 2, 1987-1988; “Academicism,” Volume IV, Number 2, Winter 1988-1989; “The Nature of Form,” Volume IV, Number 2, Winter 1988-1999; “The Form of Seurat's ‘The Models,’ Volume V, Number 1, Spring-Summer 1990; “Form and Matter,” Volume V, Number 2, 1991;


  • 1969 Doctorate of Humane Letters, Lincoln University, Lincoln, Pa.
  • 1970 Doctor of Fine Arts, St. Joseph College, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1973 France’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs honors Violette de Mazia with the title of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. Miss de Mazia was also listed in the International Registry of “Profiles” for distinguished achievement.
  • 1984 Doctor of Fine Arts, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1986 Doctor of Humane Letters, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, Pa.

The Paintings

We receive many inquiries about paintings signed 'DEMAZIA', most feature generic, still-life subjects (please see example to the left). Violette de Mazia never painted professionally and her personal artwork was never sold. Any personal paintings that Ms. de Mazia created are now part of the Barnes Foundation's collection. 

The paintings we are contacted about often feature eggs and/or fruit and have a certificate number on the back and, once again, are not by Violette de Mazia.


Click here to learn more about the Violette de Mazia Foundation's educational programming.