News / Arts & Entertainment

Celebrated Art Returns to Museum Walls at Washington's Phillips Collection

Celebrated Art Returns to Museum Walls at Washington's Phillips Collectioni
X
Julie Taboh
March 11, 2014 2:34 PM
Following an acclaimed four-year world tour, more than 200 works by some of America’s finest artists are back at The Phillips Collection in Washington. VOA reporter Julie Taboh spoke with the exhibit curator about these special masterworks, and how they were assembled after World War II.

Celebrated Art Returns to Museum Walls at Washington's Phillips Collection

Following an acclaimed four-year world tour, more than 200 works by some of America’s finest artists are back on the walls of The Phillips Collection in Washington. The exhibit curator talks about these special masterworks, and reveals how the museum founder helped American art become a significant global force after World War II.
 
American Art

Red Sun by Arthur Dove. Egg Beater No. 4 by Stuart Davis and John Graham's Blue Still Life. These are just a few of the works of American art on display in a new exhibit called Made in the USA: American Masters from The Phillips Collection.  

The works by more than 100 American artists spanning over a century, from 1850 to about 1970, were collected by the museum's founder, Duncan Phillips, from the end of World War l to his death in 1966.

Portrait photo of Duncan Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington. (Courtesy The Phillips Collection)Portrait photo of Duncan Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington. (Courtesy The Phillips Collection)
x
Portrait photo of Duncan Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington. (Courtesy The Phillips Collection)
Portrait photo of Duncan Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington. (Courtesy The Phillips Collection)
Curator Susan Frank says one focus of the show is to highlight the fact that 80 percent of the works in the museum are by American artists, acquired by Phillips at a time when European artists were more in favor.

“He was determined,” said Frank, “that he would dedicate this museum to living American artists and lift up American art out of obscurity and give it the same presence that European works were given by his contemporary collectors and other museums.”
 
The exhibit is organized by theme, beginning in the late 19th century with work from artists like Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins and George Inness, who were considered heroes of American Modernism.

It ends with an extraordinary display of Post-War Abstract Expressionism by such artists as Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb and Bradley Walker Tomlin.
   
Art with heart

Frank said Phillips was often drawn to art that represented human emotion, as depicted in a series of cityscapes.

John Sloan’s Clown Making Up provides an intimate behind-the-scenes look that suggests a sense of isolation of modern life during the first decade of the 20th century. And Walt Kuhn’s Plumes depicts the sad expression of a showgirl, which evokes that same feeling of loneliness.

“Phillips was so predisposed to these universal ideas of finding humanity in these subjects and having a kind of personal engagement with the object and the subject and understanding that the artist brought something very personal to that painting,” said Frank.

“The same can be said for Edward Hopper’s Sunday that Phillips acquired in 1926,” added Frank; “This really extraordinary early work by Hopper of a single figure sitting on a lonely sidewalk, and Phillips understanding this tension between a beautiful composition and the loneliness of modern life that Hopper had captured.”

The sculpture "Hollow Egg" by Alexander Calder is on display at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)The sculpture "Hollow Egg" by Alexander Calder is on display at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
x
The sculpture "Hollow Egg" by Alexander Calder is on display at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
The sculpture "Hollow Egg" by Alexander Calder is on display at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Beyond acquisition

Duncan Phillips had an appreciation for these artists who were not being collected by other museums but who Phillips was eager to add to the museum’s collection, according to Frank.

Throughout his directorship, Phillips often developed a personal relationship with the artists whose work he collected.

That included a few pioneers of American impressionism such as Childe Hassam, Julian Alden Weir and Maurice Prendergast, among others.
 
Sometimes those relationships even extended to financial support.

“Most well-known of course is his engagement with the abstract American artist Arthur Dove,” Frank added, whose work Phillips discovered in the mid-1920s.
 
“At the end of Dove’s life,” she said,” just a few months before his death, he wrote a thank-you note to Duncan Phillips about that support, telling him that it had meant everything to him.”

The painting "Aspiration" by Augustus Vincent Tack is seen at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)The painting "Aspiration" by Augustus Vincent Tack is seen at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
x
The painting "Aspiration" by Augustus Vincent Tack is seen at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
The painting "Aspiration" by Augustus Vincent Tack is seen at The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C., March 2014. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Phillips also lent his support to many immigrant artists.
 
“Phillips always believed and championed American art as including all of the world because so many artists were immigrants who came here from being foreign-born, who brought their cultural aesthetics with them and synthesized them with their American experience and produced something that was unique," she said.

Japanese-born immigrant artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Maine Family, and Political Exiles by Peppino Mangravite, who is of Italian descent, are just a couple of examples in the exhibit that reflect the immigrant experience which Phillips was so drawn to.

“We are a country of immigrants,” Frank added, “and Phillips really embraced this idea very early on in the 1920s and ‘30s.

“He celebrated their approach to their American experience as being something that enriched us,” said Frank.
 
The museum is hoping that the exhibit will not only enrich, but excite people about the breadth and diversity of American art in the first half of the 20th century, and publicize the important role Phillips played in elevating American modern art to the same level as European masterworks of the time.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.