Nordic Impressions Opens to the Public this Saturday at The Phillips

Nordic Impressions is a major survey of Nordic art spanning nearly 200 years and presenting 53 artists. The exhibition celebrates the incredible artistic diversity of Nordic art, from idealized paintings of the distinctive Nordic light and untouched landscape to melancholic portraits in quiet interiors and mesmerizing video works that explore the human condition.

While the question of what constitutes a distinctively Nordic art has been a constant debate, the art in the exhibition retains a certain mystique and focus on themes that have held a special place in Nordic culture for centuries: light and darkness, inner life and exterior space, the coalescence of nature and folklore, and women’s rights and social liberalism.

(Finland) Akseli Gallen-Kallela, The Defense of The Sampo, 1896, Tempera on canvas, 48 x 49 3/16 in., Turku Art Museum

(Finland) Akseli Gallen-Kallela, The Defense of The Sampo, 1896, Tempera on canvas, 48 x 49 3/16 in., Turku Art Museum

The exhibition pays tribute to the artistic excellence of Nordic painters from the Golden Age and Romantic era, follows the artists who balanced nationalism and French influence, explores the influx of experimental and conceptual art, and considers the international platform of artists of today. Nordic Impressions demonstrates how Nordic artists have inspired each other across national boundaries while honoring deeply rooted cultural traditions.

Nordic Impressions opens on October 13 and runs through January 13.

Reflecting on Marking the Infinite with the Phillips’s Chief Diversity Officer, Makeba Clay

In September, The Phillips Collection hosted a special tour and conversation with members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an international public service organization headquartered in Washington, DC. We welcomed Delta Sigma Theta’s Committee on Arts and Letters Committee, which strives to advance African-American artists, art works, and organizations who foster this same mission. As you can imagine, this event brought forth a vibrant dialogue!

Members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority join The Phillips Collection’s Chief Diversity Officer, Makeba Clay to explore Marking the Infinite.

Members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority join The Phillips Collection’s Chief Diversity Officer, Makeba Clay to explore Marking the Infinite.

A guided tour with a gallery educator revealed a myriad of interesting insights; namely that some of the challenges Aboriginal Australian women experience mirror those of women of color in the US. These challenges, many spurred by the impact of colonialism and racial injustice, also revolved around access, equity, and visibility in the arts and beyond.

Links were easily made between indigenous Australian art and African art. Many likened the woven patterns to the widely known textiles of West Africa such as kente and batik. Designs, colors, and patterns inspired by nature gave way to movement, life, and energy in the fabrics. Some even reflected on the link to the Quilts of Gee’s Bend from Alabama. To our guests, the artworks communicated a narrative that connected aboriginal Australians to the African diaspora. This is an important lesson for any museum and one that the Phillips will be contemplating: depending on the background of the viewer, artwork can take on new meaning and life.

Art in all forms is a vehicle not just for expression but also social justice and change. The Phillips Collection has always leaned forward in this mission, incorporating the ethos of our founder, Duncan Phillips, as a progressive thinker and champion for many social causes. As our city and nation becomes more diverse, the Phillips actively works to reflect that diversity and to be accessible to all our audiences. Events such as this are a perfect and strategic collaboration for the museum that allow us to engage with and learn from public service, civic and social justice organizations like Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Conversations that emerge from this and future opportunities will continue to inform all facets of our work.

We look forward to more events and lively conversations with community partners. If you or your organization are interested in partnering with The Phillips, please reach out to our Manager of Marketing and Partnerships, Lia Seremetis, at

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Pat Norton

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Mary Pat Norton, Art Information Volunteer and Public Program Volunteer

Mary Pat Norton

What year did you start volunteering for The Phillips Collection?I’ve been volunteering since February 2018.

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?

As a volunteer, I’ve had the opportunity to assist a variety of departments and learn about all of the artists within the exhibits. Before working here, I never seriously studied works by Paul Klee or the aboriginal Australian women artists, so I’ve enjoyed broadening my perspective. In doing so, I’ve been able to discuss these works with our visitors, gaining an understanding of their viewpoints as well. Overall, the best part about my role is that I have the privilege of helping visitors cultivate meaningful learning experiences, and they help me to do the same.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at the Phillips?

I am an art history MA student at George Washington University and an editorial assistant to a design historian. When I am not studying, I can be found eating my way through D.C. and wandering through the city’s art museums.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

I love the Laib Wax Room, and I really appreciate that there is a slab of wax on the outside of this space for visitors to touch. The eucalyptus poles in the Marking the Infinite exhibit are also fascinating.

If you had to choose one word to describe The Phillips Collection, what would it be?


Share a fun fact about you!

I excel at pogo sticking, and I grew up in South Florida.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I’ve really grown to love the Phillips and I look forward to learning more about this fabulous collection. Volunteering here has been a fun experience, and I appreciate everyone who has helped me learn more about the museum industry.