“Look on the model with respect…”

Henri Matisse, Untitled (Seated Nude), ca. 1908

Matisse on models: “I depend entirely on my model, who I observe at liberty, and then I decide on the pose which best suits her nature…. And then I become a slave of that pose.” Henri Matisse, Untitled (Seated Nude), ca. 1908. Ink on paper, 10 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Gift of Marjorie Phillips, 1984. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Proving that no occupation is un-strikeable, nude models in France are threatening a strike for better wages and job benefits. Despite the many languid figurative works that may imply that nude modeling is nothing more than draping one’s body over a chaise, even those sessions can be plenty challenging. John Sloan, in his treatise Gist of Art (1939), offers this insight into the artist/model exchange:

The important thing to bear in mind while drawing the figure is that the model is a human being, that it is alive, that it exists there on the stand. Look on the model with respect, appreciate his or her humanity. Be very humble before that human being. Be filled with wonder at its reality and life. There is a human creature that lives and breathes and feels, a thing with a mind and character of its own—not a patchwork of light and shadow, color shapes.

Sometimes when I come into the classroom I look at the model and see that she is shivering with cold or suffering in some difficult post she is trying to hold too long. You look up at her and back at the paper, tick-tock, back and forth—all you are looking for is some detail of the appearance of the figure.

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

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.”