Treasures by Arthur Hall Smith

A plate from Arthur's handmade book for the Phillipses showing visiting nuns admiring Matisse's Studio, Quai Saint-Michel, 1916.

A plate from Arthur’s handmade book for the Phillips’s showing visiting nuns admiring Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint-Michel. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.

Arthur Hall Smith was a beloved employee during his tenure at The Phillips Collection, from 1960-1974. In 1960, the Phillips expanded into an annex which generated the need for more staff. In an oral history, Smith recalled interviewing for the job: “I bought a new pair of shoes and I went out to the Phillips’s house for the interview… they showed me a model of the new building and where they wanted to place me, which was the second floor because it had the Renoir, the Bonnards–really the ‘high rent place’ and he [Duncan Phillips] thought I would be a good welcoming presence there.” Arthur’s welcoming presence and French speaking ability made him a frequent guest at the home of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, and unofficial translator for tours and foreign visitors to the museum.

Arthur made the Phillips’s a miniature book for Christmas one year, with depictions of the Phillips house with people, including two nuns, looking at paintings in the collection. During the major Cézanne exhibition in 1971, Smith went to a nearby “head shop” which sold pipes and other drug paraphernalia. The store also sold all kinds of buttons, so Smith got thirty of them and painted them ochre with a hand-painted Braque bird and the word “Staff,” and finished them with a heavy lacquer.

Handmade staff buttons

Handmade staff buttons. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.

Arthur died in February of 2013 in Paris, France, where he lived for many years. A transcript of his oral history interview is available in the library.

New Year’s Resolution: Read More Books

Weston_Dos Passos Reading

Harold Weston, Dos Passos Reading, 1933. Oil on canvas, 22.125 x 16 in. Acquired 1933. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

tasev_man reading

Antanas Tasev, Man Reading, 1927. Pencil on paper, 6 1/4 x 9 in. Acquired 1949. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Gromaire_Nude Reading

Marcel Gromaire, Nude Reading, 1929. Ink on paper, 13 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. Gift of Jean Goriany, 1943. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Thank You for a Great December!

Overflow coat check at admissions, December 30, 2013. Photo: Sarah Osborne Bender

Overflow coat check at admissions, December 30, 2013. Photo: Sarah Osborne Bender

Starting with the government shutdown in October and the opening of Van Gogh Repetitions, we knew we were in for a busy season here. But it was one heck of a December for the Phillips as we welcomed 24,558 visitors (well above our budget attendance of 19,800.) The shop likely had its highest sales month ever, 21% over last December during our Degas exhibition. And the café was so popular, they had to fashion a sign announcing when capacity was reached. (And it has spent a lot of time on display.)

To all of our visitors and members (new and old), thank you for making this such a successful month. And to our colleagues on the front lines selling tickets and signing up members, checking coats, staffing and stocking the shop, making lattes and ladling soups in the café, and, most of all, keeping the artworks secure, THANK YOU!