The Phillips Collection is one of the world’s most distinguished collections of impressionist and modern American and European art. Stressing the continuity between art of the past and present, it offers a strikingly original and experimental approach to modern art by combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently. The setting is similarly unconventional, featuring small rooms, a domestic scale, and a personal atmosphere.
In 1921, Duncan Phillips (1886–1966) opened his home to the public as the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery. His extraordinary collection included work by American impressionists and their French counterparts. A major coup was the 1923 purchase of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s sumptuous Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Marriage to painter Marjorie Acker and friendships with artists helped enlarge Phillips’s taste, and he worked enthusiastically to train his eye: within a few years, the museum’s American holdings filled with works by living modernists Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. At the same time, equally large numbers of European paintings entered the collection, among them works by Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. Phillips referred to the museum as an “experiment station” and continued adding significantly to it through the second half of the 20th century, with major works by Ben Nicholson and Nicolas de Staël, among the Europeans, and by Americans, including Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Morris Graves, Phillip Guston, and Morris Louis. A room devoted to Mark Rothko’s large canvases, the first of its kind, opened in 1960. The value placed on strong connections with artists is reflected in the depth of some of the museum’s holdings.
The Phillips, America’s first museum of modern art, maintains its longstanding commitment to a spirit of experimentation and the art of today through public exchanges with guest artists, acclaimed exhibitions, and an active collecting program. In the Intersections series, contemporary artists are invited to create work in response to art and spaces in the museum.
Deeply committed to integrating arts into education, the Phillips also produces a vigorous, award-winning program of educational outreach that serves more than 6,000 students and teachers a year and indirectly reaches many tens of thousands more. The museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art explores new ways of thinking about art and the nature of creativity through artist visits and lectures, and provides a forum for scholars through courses, post-doctoral fellowships, and internships. The museum also hosts Sunday Concerts in its wood-paneled Music Room, Phillips after 5 events during Thursday extended hours, and many other extraordinary opportunities to experience great art up close and personal.
In 2011, as part of its 90th anniversary celebrations, the museum launched a blog and free App, developed a discussion series focusing on D.C.’s creative community, formed a premier Phillips-namesake music ensemble, and forged dynamic new partnerships with local universities and arts organizations. The museum has also organized special exhibitions of work by artists including Sam Gilliam, Howard Hodgkin, Joseph Marioni, and Augustus Vincent Tack.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mr.TinDC https://flic.kr/p/8mJJVL CC BY-ND 2.0