Hot Sun and Desert Dust in Paul Klee’s Colors

Paul Klee, Arab Song, 1932. Oil on burlap, 35 7/8 x 25 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1940

Arab Song recalls Paul Klee’s love of North Africa, first experienced in Tunisia in 1914 and reawakened in 1928 in Egypt. It was within the intense light-filled landscapes of North Africa that Klee discovered color. Klee literally infused color into Arab Song, an aspect that drew Duncan Phillips to this work. Phillips wrote, “With only a raw canvas stained to a few pale tones, he evoked a hot sun, desert dust, faded clothes, veiled women, an exotic plant, a romantic interpretation of North Africa.” Bold for the time, Klee’s method of directly applying color onto an unprimed canvas became a call to arms in the 1950s for a young generation of Color Field painters, such as Gene Davis and Kenneth Noland.

This work is on view in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee through May 6, 2018.

Tuesday Tunes: A Playlist for Adolph Gottlieb

Taking inspiration from the major theme of music in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee, we paired 11 staff members with 11 works from the exhibition and asked them to create a playlist in response to their individual artwork. Laura Hoffman, Manager of K–12 Digital & Educator Initiatives, created this playlist in response to Adolph Gottlieb’s “Labyrinth #1.”

Adolph Gottlieb, Labyrinth #1, 1950, Oil and sand on canvas, 36 x 48 in., Collection of the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, New York © Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The theme of my playlist is eclecticism to reflect the wide range of symbols and techniques employed in Adolph Gottlieb’s Labyrinth #1. Gottlieb once remarked, “The surprise in a painting is not the surprise of discovering some kind of a story or myth, it’s the surprise of finding a clear statement about something that you felt and then to see it, to see this feeling become materialized in paint, then it really exists.” My inspiration drew from delving into the terms “labyrinth,” “alchemy,” “pictograph,” and “symbol”; looking at what music was playing at the time of this painting in 1950; and music-based mash-ups. I would recommend playing this on shuffle to reflect the surprise Gottlieb describes.

Laura Hoffman, Manager of K–12 Digital & Educator Initiatives

Feeling inspired? Create your own playlist based around works in the exhibition and send it to us at communications@phillipscollection.org and we may feature it on our blog and social media.

Exploring the Seine

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, on view October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Seine at Chatou, 1874

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Seine at Chatou (La Seine à Chatou), 1874. Oil on canvas, 20 × 25 in. Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection

As early as 1869, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was exploring the banks of the Seine River west of Paris, seeking subjects for his developing Impressionist style, often painting outdoor landscapes with his friend Claude Monet. His mother lived near Louveciennes, not far from Chatou, where he would frequent the Maison Fournaise with its restaurant, lodging, and boats for hire. The Maison Fournaise would become the backdrop for his masterwork Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81), with members of the Fournaise family serving as models. In this lively rendering of a gusty day on the water, Renoir includes a sailboat, signaling in his painting the growing popularity of the sport.