Georges Rouault’s Unusual Materials

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(Left) Georges Rouault’s painting Church Interior hangs unassumingly at the top of the stairs leading to the Music Room (Right) Georges Rouault, Church Interior, 1952, Enamel on copper, overall: 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Bequest of Seymour and Janet Rubin, 2003

On my way through the galleries last week, I was stopped by a painting at the top of the stairs leading to the Music Room. There, hanging unassumingly on a wall all to itself, is George Rouault’s Church Interior. What caught me was the strange texture and shape of this otherwise fairly standard painting—the work seems to bubble out from its frame like an expanding balloon. Before looking at the label, I toyed with and quickly discarded a  list of possible materials: Glass? No, too thick. Wood? Too smooth a curve. Plastic? Too undulating a surface.

Finishing my game, I gave in and looked to the placard for the answer: enamel on copper! I racked my brain for other examples of works on copper, but couldn’t come up with any. Naturally, my next step was a search of the Phillips’s collection for similar works and then, finding none, of the world at large. It turns out that copper had something of a heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries as an artistic canvas, of interest to El Greco, Rembrandt, and a slew of others.

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager

Hopper’s Birthday: Thoughts on Approaching a City

(Left) Edward Hopper, Sunday, 1926, Oil on canvas 29 x 34 in.; 73.66 x 86.36 cm. Acquired 1926. Paintings, 0925, American. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC. (Right) Edward Hopper, Approaching a City, 1946, conte on paper, 15 1/16 c 22 1/8 in., Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Bequest of Josephene N. Hopper, 70.869.

(Left) Edward Hopper, Sunday, 1926, Oil on canvas 29 x 34 in.; 73.66 x 86.36 cm. Acquired 1926. Paintings, 0925, American. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC. (Right) Edward Hopper, Approaching a City, 1946, conte on paper, 15 1/16 c 22 1/8 in., Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Bequest of Josephene N. Hopper, 70.869.

To learn more about this painting on the anniversary of Edward Hopper’s birth, below is an oral history transcript from the Archives of American Art in which Hopper was asked about what gives this work its intense feeling. See the painting on view in the Made in the USA show through August 31.

JOHN MORSE: Mr. Hopper, I’d like to ask you about one particular picture that made a great impression on me when I first saw it at the Whitney exhibition, and still does, although now it’s in the Duncan Phillips Collection in Washington. That’s Approaching a City, and I’m quite sure, or how I could put it into words, the particular appeal of this picture—maybe it’s impossible—but I would like to hear what you have to say about it.

EDWARD HOPPER: Well, I’ve always been interested in approaching a big city in a train, and I can’t exactly describe the sensations, but they’re entirely human and perhaps have nothing to do with aesthetics. There is a certain fear and anxiety and a great visual interest in the things that one sees coming into a great city. I think that’s about all I can say about it.

JOHN MORSE: Well, in painting this picture were you aware of these wonderful solid geometric forms that took my eye at once?

EDWARD HOPPER: Well, I suppose I was. I tried for those things more or less unintentionally.

JOHN MORSE: Would you go so far as to say it’s almost a subconscious result, effect?

EDWARD HOPPER: Yes, I think so.

JOHN MORSE: But what was in your mind when you were painting it, I gather then, was this feeling of approaching a city?

EDWARD HOPPER: Yes.

JOHN MORSE: Thank you.

From: Oral history interview with Edward Hopper, 1959 June 17, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-edward-hopper-11844

 

Painting, Sculpture, and…Boilers?

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The Phillips’s unlikely heroes: our environment stabilizing boilers. Photos courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Beyond the galleries, there are hidden heroes lurking in the outskirts of the Phillips’s building. While perhaps not as beautiful, our behind-the-scenes boilers are just as critical to the Phillips as our works of art. A proud Chief of Security and Operations Dan Datlow describes the role these unlikely champions play during the hottest summers and chilliest winters:

“This is the time of the year when our HVAC equipment is working hard to cool and dehumidify all of our indoor spaces. We are taking large amounts of moisture out of the air to maintain stable environmental conditions in the galleries. This is the opposite of what we do in the wintertime, when the outside air is dry and we have to add large amounts of moisture to the air to maintain our environment.

In the images above, the heavy end plates have been removed to expose the heating tubes where steam is produced. We brush the tubes out annually and then the boiler inspector visits to certify them for license renewal.

I’ve worked with many, many boilers in my career and I’m happy to say these are the cleanest tubes and tube sheets I’ve ever seen. Usually, there is a some level of hard scale in the boilers that is the result of dissolved water solids (minerals) that coat the boiler interior. Our boilers are presently in exactly the same scale-free condition they were on the day we installed them.”