The History of Transition

Raymond Granville Barger (1906-2001)

Raymond Granville Barger (1906-2001), Transition, 1965, Bronze, H. 21 x W. 25 x D. 6 feet, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of the artist.

If you have been to the Michener Art Museum, you have probably seen the large sculpture in the gardens on the outside of the building.  You may have passed this sculpture dozens of times while walking into the Museum or the Bucks County Free Library next door. While it is hard to miss, have you ever taken the time to really stop and look at it? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you look at this sculpture? Do you see an animal? Or something else?

This sculpture is entitled Transition and was created by Raymond Granville Barger. This 25-foot long bronze sculpture was originally commissioned for the J. C. Penny Headquarters Building in New York City in 1965. When the building in NYC changed owners, they decided they would remove the sculpture garden in which Transition was placed, at the same time leaving the sculpture with an uncertain future. They reached out to Barger and through his many contacts, he was able to find a new home for the sculpture at the Michener Art Museum! Here are some pictures of the installation in 1989.


Image Credit: Installation of Barger’s Transition, 1989, Photos courtesy of Michener Art Museum’s Archives


Barger considered himself a poet, in addition to being a sculptor. He wrote a poem for Transition after it had been relocated to the Michener. Barger read this poem at the unveiling of the sculpture in 1989. You can also find a copy of the poem outside on a plaque next to the sculpture.


Once these strong prison walls

Contained breakers of laws

Victims of poor education!

In dull class students rot

Low pay tutors teach not

In this world’s wealthiest nation!

Now these same walls contain

Our culture’s art maintain

Records Bucks County history!

This lesson is now learned

We invite art’s return

To enhance future’s destiny!

Transition means to change

Art center entertains

Positive thoughts have potential

Donors’ motives aspire

Ideals will reach higher

Creative minds are essential!

Word “war” eliminate

Then cast out the word “hate”

This message of peace transmitted!

Let our unborn survive

Let our youth stay alive

Coexist on earth committed!


Learn more about this sculpture and the work of Raymond Barger in this video:

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