Although I've spent a lot of time in DC, I've never been to the Phillips Collection. I learned that the Phillips was the first museum of modern art in the United States, pre-dating MOMA by almost ten years. Duncan Phillips fell in love with art when he went to college at Yale in the early 1900s. Being a member of the lucky sperm club (he was heir to a steel fortune), Duncan persuaded his parents to give him a $10,000 stipend for art collection upon his graduation. His collection grew, and in 1921, Phillips converted his house into a museum and opened it to the public. Today the Phillips owns approximately 2400 works of art. To See as Artists See contains a mere 100 of those pieces, but they are gems.
The show is broken into ten themes ranging from Romanticism and Realism to Nature and Abstraction to Modern Life. That's obviously way too much to chronicle here, but I wanted to share a few of the highlights.
|Whistler's Miss Lillian|
This portion of the show also contained paintings by Homer and Eakins and, again, the descriptions of the works contained some interesting tidbits. I wasn't aware that Homer began his career as an illustrator on the battlefields of the Civil War. This puts his recurring theme of man versus the sea in perspective. Nor did I know that Eakins was fired from his job as an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia because of his "insistence" on using nude models. This was not to the liking of the Philadelphia Main Liners at all.
|John Marin's The Sea Cape Split, |
Georgia O'Keefe's works were included under the theme Nature and Abstraction. O'Keefe said, "Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things."
|Georgia O'Keefe's Ranchos Church,|
No.II, N.M. (1929)
|Arthur G. Dove's Red Sun (1935)|
Jacob Lawrence is another artist whom I "discovered" at the exhibit. The Memory and Identity portion of the show included several paintings from Lawrence's "The Migration of the Negro (Series)", and they were extremely powerful. The folk art-style series contains 60 paintings. The Phillips owns the odd-numbered paintings and MOMA owns the even-numbered paintings. Here's a link to the Phillips' website if you're interested in checking them out. http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/artwork/Lawrence-Migration_Series1.htm (The website is wonderful, with detailed descriptions of many works and teaching ideas for the classroom. The works that I had the chance to see are numbers 7, 59, 23, 15, and 3--in that order.)
|Milton Avery's Girl|
The show will be on at the Tampa Museum of Art through April 28th, so get there if you can. A visit to the Phillips Collection is now on my list for my next visit to DC. So much art, so little time!