After relishing UVa graduate student Tom Winters’ series about his class’s experiments in installing our Main Gallery, I jumped at the chance to attend semester-end presentations at the Center by Tom and his cohorts. My curiosity was rewarded; Tom’s subject was a painting that I have come to count among my favorites in The Phillips Collection–John Sloan’s The Wake of the Ferry II (1907). Tom discussed the idea of liminality–thresholds, spaces between–in this painting, as well as in Sloan’s work leading up to this work and Duncan Phillips’s collecting interests around that time. In Sloan’s picture, the viewer is aboard the ferry, embarking on a passage between two places. In the grayness and fog, looking back in the direction whence we came, we can’t be quite certain as to exactly where we’re going or when we’ll get there. We know little of our companion, who remains a stranger at a distance with face turned out to sea. Tom traced a theme of liminal spaces–both physical and psychic–with examples including Wake of a Ferrry I (1907) in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. He also offered a compelling argument that a number of Duncan Phillips’s other 1922 purchases evoke a similar atmosphere, heavy with transition and uncertainty, perhaps a comment on our founder’s own state of grieving and recovery following significant personal losses.
Cecilia Wichmann, Publicity and Marketing Manager