ArtGrams: Appreciating Morris Louis

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Via Instagrammer @_samjang_ #MorrisLouis #DC

This month’s ArtGrams features Morris Louis’s large-scale painting Seal (1959). Louis, founding member of the Washington Color School, spent years working in Washington, DC. He drew inspiration from artists in The Phillips Collection including Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Arthur Dove, Mark Rothko, and Augustus Vincent Tack. Related to his Veil series, Seal was one of the first paintings by Louis to be acquired by a museum. Here are some of our favorite interactions with the work snapped by Instagrammers.

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Instagrammer @jonathanaustinart: “Checking out the masterpieces at The Phillips Collection. Best way to start my weekend. Morris Louis’s paintings.”

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We see some Louis reflections in this scarf! Shot by @rareformproperties.

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Thanks, @belleauroradesigns! “Love the @phillipscollection”

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Black top / black jeans / black paint. Photo by @dannythimm

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Cropping just the corner and putting a tinted filter over Louis’s vibrant colors casts “Seal” in a new light. Photo by @willballantynereid


Deconstructing Lawrence’s Struggle Series: Panel 13

This spring, former Phillips curator Beth Turner taught an undergraduate practicum at the University of Virginia focusing on Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series. In this multi-part blog series, responses from Turner’s students in reference to individual works from the series will be posted each week.

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Jacob Lawrence, Struggle … From the History of the American People, no. 13: Victory and Defeat, 1955. Egg tempera on hardboard, 16 x 12 in. Private Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This panel depicts the surrender of British General Cornwallis at Yorktown, a battle which is remembered as the last major engagement of the American Revolution, effectively ending the conflict with a resounding American victory.

Unlike the more eventful scenes in the Struggle series, which depict violent interactions between people, this panel is one in which Lawrence omits figures. It is in these select panels that chaotic masses of bodies, violent interactions, and scenes of death are exchanged by a peaceful encounter between the hands of Victory and Defeat. Defeat, dressed in the British red coat, is situated above the outstretched hand of Victory which extends from a long black cloak. Victory beckons out to Defeat to relinquish its sword amidst a primarily blackened and flat background of piled cannon balls, an exchange that is ultimately respectable and diplomatic.

Although moments of violence often stand out in history, here Lawrence emphasizes the impact of the simple exchange between opposing hands through his simplistic style. While traditional depictions of Yorktown show the American general towering over the British general, here the hands are on an almost equal plane, suggesting that the violence has ended. Yet the subtle gap between Victory and Defeat also suggests a moment of tension as Defeat realizes his vision has come to an end.

Maureen O’Connor

Capturing an American Moment Today: Photo Contest Kick-off

Yesterday, we launched a photo contest in conjunction with this summer’s American Moments photography exhibition. Through July 21, show us your interpretation of an American Moment today for a chance to win a Leica D-Lux (Type 109) camera, your image on a postcard, Phillips membership, and more. Looking for some inspiration? We let staff loose in the city to get the wheels turning with some examples:

Beauty in the Breakdown_contest example_Emily Conforto

Photo: Emily Conforto

Beauty in the Breakdown
This image was inspired by various photographs depicting city development featured in the “Labor” section of the American Moments exhibition. Much like the works of Bruce Davidson and Lewis Hine in the 20th century, this picture seeks to capture the beauty that still exists in American urban development today.

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Photo: Allyson Hitte

The Fuel of America
While famous monuments and memorials may epitomize America herself, in the 21st century, nothing can compete with Starbucks. The act of picking up your standard drink in the morning before work or at lunch and enjoying that feeling of having that special cup and boost of energy defines a true American Moment.

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Photo: Emily Conforto

Through the lens of the iPhone
This photograph captures the iconic American view of the Washington Monument from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A man holding a “selfie stick” on the right exemplifies the way new technologies have revolutionized the idea of photography in the 21st century.