This past summer, I took an enchanting trip to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. This jewel of a museum is tucked back in a residential area near Dupont Circle, away from the hustle and bustle of the Smithsonian. The museum was founded by Duncan Phillips who , with his family accumulated an extraordinary collection of modern art. In 1921 the doors to the Phillips Collection opened and our nation's first modern art museum was born.
The collection is housed in Duncan Phillips’ 1897 beautiful Georgian Revival home and two architecturally similar adjacent building. As you walk through the spaces you certainly still feel as though you are walking through someone's home. As Duncan Phillips once wrote of the museum, "there is a sense of art lived with, worked with and loved."
The Museum's best know work is Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party." It truly is sensational in person, as the light and colors leap off the canvas from across the room. The painting captures an idlyllic scene of Renoir's friends enjoying food, drink and lively conversation on a balcony over looking the Seine River. To learn more about Renoir's famous work take a look at "Who's Who in the Boating Party" on the museum's website.
Another captivating work housed in the museum is this sculpture by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Giacometti's sculptures are known for their exaggerated forms and intense gazes.
The museum has a significant collection of works by Edgar Degas. I have always loved Degas' subject matter of dance and Parisian life as well as his use of color and graceful forms. The "Dancers at the Bar" painting (see top image) is anchored visually above a mantle in a beautiful well lit sitting room within the museum adding to the intimate atmosphere.
In one of the museum's secondary buildings you can find several paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, an American abstract expressionist painter. While the painting looks like a watercolor, Frankenthaler utilized a technique called "soak staining" in which oil paints are diluted in turpentine so that the color soaks into the canvas.
In 1960 Phillips created a chapel-like Rothko Room to house four paintings by the American abstract painter and printmaker. The room was moved to a new location within the museum in 2006 but remains unchanged from its original size and style.
The Phillips collection includes several works by Piet Mondrian a dutch painter who is known for his "grid" paintings and his use of primary colors.
This piece was created by Gene Davis, an American Painter known for his painting of vertical stripes of color done in acrylic on large canvases. This photograph does not do the painting justice, as many of the stripes seem to jump off the canvas because of their placement amidst the other colors. When sitting in front of the painting you feel a rhythm and repetition within the work.
The museum contains nearly 3,000 works and includes many other wonderful pieces by famous artists such as Cézanne, O'Keeffe, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Gallery talks are offered with admission but do require advance reservations. If you live in the D.C. area or are planning a trip anytime soon, make sure you put the Phillips Collection on the top of your sightseeing list. I cannot recommend it enough!