Glanton said the storm of criticism unleashed by the effort to sell off part of the world-famous collection, housed in galleries in Merion, had disrupted the board's overall attempt to make the museum more accessible to the public.
Yesterday's announcement was greeted with surprise and unalloyed joy by members of the Friends of the Barnes, a group of former foundation students opposed to selling off any part of the collection.
"I wish I could sing 'Hallelujah'!" crowed Ann Barnes, co-chair of the Friends and no relation to Albert Barnes. "That's wonderful news. I've got goose bumps from head to toe."
In his will, Barnes prohibited trustees of the foundation from selling any of his collection, which consists of over 800 paintings, 200 sculptures and numerous examples of the decorative arts. Barnes died in 1951.
In March, the trustees filed a petition in Montgomery County Orphans Court seeking permission to sell paintings to pay for renovations to the 65-year-old museum facility and to raise money for the foundation's endowment, currently about $10 million. The petition also sought to expand public visiting hours and to loosen a number of other operating restrictions.
The Glanton announcement said that the board "will explore alternative means of raising the revenues to carry out its mission." Glanton added that the board "will go forward with the other requests before the court." A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for July.
Neither Glanton nor any member of the board would elaborate on the statement.
Tom L. Freudenheim, assistant secretary for museums at the Smithsonian Institution and a member of a Barnes art-advisory committee, said the decision was "very exciting."
"The issue of selling from the collection pushed everything else off the public agenda," Freudenheim said, recovering quickly from expressed amazement. "Now people can talk about what they do and what they do not like about the Barnes." Freudenheim had opposed the sale.
Walter H. Annenberg, the art collector and philanthropist, who had recently twitted the foundation, pooh-poohed much of the collection and supported the decision to sell off paintings, had no comment yesterday except to say that he ''wishes the Barnes Foundation well in its attempts to serve the community."
When the trustees filed their petition seeking relief from many operating restrictions imposed by the irascible Barnes, they argued that the foundation's mission and even its existence were threatened by the legal straitjacket.
ARGUMENT FOR SALE
Glanton argued in March that deaccessioning the collection - selling off art - was essential to maintain the quality of the remaining art as well as of the foundation's 12-acre arboretum and other properties.
In Glanton's view at that time, a sale of paintings was needed to raise $12 million to $15 million to completely restore the deteriorated galleries. Restoration of the galleries, Glanton had argued, was "critical to the preservation of the collection."
"The potential threat to the collection if these steps aren't taken could be irreversible," he had argued.
The Barnes collection, which includes 57 paintings by Cezanne, 54 by Matisse, 171 by Renoir and seven by van Gogh, is considered the world's leading assemblage of French postimpressionist art. And the plan to sell any part of it hit a raw nerve in the art world.
"It makes most museums very jittery when an institution starts talking about selling works of art - particularly when it is not for the purpose of replenishing the collection, but for operational purposes," Roger Mandle, deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, said in March.
Mandle's comment was echoed by many others who questioned the wisdom of the proposed sale, though no specific paintings had actually been selected for market.
DEBATE CAN CONTINUE
Freudenheim, of the Smithsonian, pointed out yesterday that all of the changes proposed by the Barnes' trustees could be undone - except for one. ''The only action they contemplated that couldn't be undone was the disposing of the collection," he said. "And that's the only thing that I'm really concerned with. Now there can be debate about bringing the Barnes into the late 20th century."
Murry Levin, a lawyer representing the Friends of the Barnes, which has been seeking to enter the legal case over the foundation's trust restrictions, called the decision not to sell "a great and major step."
"If the trustees are obligating themselves to maintain the paintings and not to sell, we'd welcome that," Levin said. "We'd like to help in any way to help meet the foundation's legitimate needs."
The announcement yesterday leaves a number of questions very much up in the air. First and foremost: Where will the funding come from to refurbish the foundation's physical plant, care for the collection and replenish the endowment?
This month, the trustees approved a lucrative contract with Alfred A. Knopf that will see the New York publisher issue, in 1993 and 1994, at least two lavishly illustrated books on the collection. The deal, which reportedly netted the foundation nearly $1 million up front and will constitute the first publication of color reproductions of masterpieces in the collection, will provide a steady income to the Barnes for years to come.
Are there other deals in the works? No trustee would comment yesterday.