Happy Birthday Duncan Phillips

Works by Milton Avery, Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, and Karl Knaths

Clockwise from top left: Milton Avery, Black Sea, 1959. Oil on canvas, 50 x 67 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Robert Motherwell, In White and Yellow Ochre, 1961. Oil, charcoal, ink, tempera and paper collage on paper, 40 7/8 x 27 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Alexander Calder, Only, Only Bird, 1951. Tin cans and wire, 11 x 17 x 39 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1966. Karl Knaths, The Blue Heron at the Tide Wash, 1956. Oil on canvas; 24 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965.

I had the pleasure of speaking last night to Alice Phillips Swistel, great-niece of Duncan Phillips who was born today in 1886. It’s not surprising that the conversation came around to her memories of him. Though I’ve worked here for over five years and handled many of Phillips’s belongings–his journals, book collection, letters–I always welcome more insight. Above are images of five works Phillips purchased in the last months of his life. I think the selection is telling, featuring his devoted friendship and support of artists (Knaths), and his appreciation for complexity (Motherwell). These works display many of the hallmarks of Phillips as a collector: his patronage and loyalty, the joy of discovering, a passion for seeking the new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>