Recently, I began to think about the numerous connections between pets and artwork in The Phillips Collection, and was surprised by the richness of this topic. So much so, I’m writing a series exploring the intersection of pets with the collection. In honor of the museum’s 90th, this post looks at Duncan and Marjorie Phillips.
Marjorie was a professional artist and painted her husband on multiple occasions. I think her portrait, Duncan Phillips with the Dogs C’est Tout, Ami and Babette (1975), is my favorite, mostly because it illustrates the couple’s enduring love for dogs. During their lifetimes, Duncan and Marjorie kept many dogs—first an airedale, later a spaniel named Jeff, schnauzers called Pep and Pep II, and of course the standard poodles depicted in Marjorie’s painting with Duncan. C’est Tout, Ami, and Babette were especially important to the couple: all three lived 17 years, and the Phillipses treated them like members of the family. In fact, when French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson took a family portrait, Duncan insisted that the dogs be included.
So, it’s not surprising to me that Marjorie incorporated the poodles in Duncan Phillips with the Dogs C’est Tout, Ami and Babette. In the lower right looking at us is Babette (a French diminutive for Barbara); she was Duncan’s favorite. On the left side of the painting is C’est Tout (French for “that’s all”); he loved playing fetch with Duncan. And in the center under the table is Ami (French for “friend”); he was Marjorie’s favorite.