This impressive Cloister was a creation by George Grey Barnard (1863-1938), a gifted American sculptor from Pennsylvania. He studied under Pierre Jules Cavelier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where his talents were recognized by the jury of the Paris Salon in 1894, which included the sculptor Rodin. Several years later when he was again in Paris working on a sculpture commission for the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg, he began collecting examples of Romanesque and Gothic medieval artwork in France, which he brought to the United States before the outbreak of World War I.
The Barnard Cloister, as it was called, was a romantic and freely artistic interpretation and display of this collection. Emulating a medieval church, he incorporated elements from various medieval cloisters and sculptured figures in wood and stone, which were further enhanced by incense and music. The Cloister drew tremendous attention from throughout America. In 1925, John D. Rockefeller bought the Cloister from Barnard, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is now situated on a rocky bluff north of Manhattan.
This present example, the 'Abbaye', was the second cloister Barnard arranged in the United States. Completed in 1937, it incorporated a wide range of architectural elements and works of art from the 11th through the 13th centuries in France and Spain including elements from the St. Genis cloister, a 13th century tomb of a knight, as well as later Renaissance elements. It was partially acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and partially sold at auction in 1945, subsequent to the artist's death. The celebrated Belgian collector, the Baron Cassel van Doorn, reportedly acquired the elements at auction for his villa in Cannes. They were later sold through the Parke-Bernet Gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan to the Carnegie Museum of Art. However, they do not appear to have been included in the large sale of the Cassel van Doorn property held at Parke-Bernet on the 9-10 December 1955, but must have been sold seperately.