A Ghostly Presence

Exhibition at The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

Photo: Lee Stalsworth

This pairing in a small gallery on the second floor of the original Phillips house is no coincidence; Intersections artist Arlene Shechet quite intentionally paired her ceramic work with Francis Bacon’s haunting Study of Figure in a Landscape (1952) from the museum’s permanent collection. “My piece is called The Possibility of Ghosts, and when I first saw the Bacon, I felt the ghostly presence of the gray figure, so that came together immediately,” said Shechet. The two pieces are the only works in the gallery, inviting focused and direct dialogue between them. Hear more from Shechet in this interview with the artist.

Meeting “Winter in the Jura”

Courbet_Winter in the Jura

Gustave Courbet, Winter in the Jura, c. 1875. Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 24 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Acquired 1958

During an impromptu stroll around the galleries on a snowy January day, I was drawn in by an intriguing image that I had not noticed before in a gallery that was originally the Phillips family home’s West Parlor. The scene before my eyes was not dissimilar from the one unfolding outside. Gustave Courbet’s Winter in the Jura (c. 1875) appeared just as breathtaking as the fresh snowfall outside. Rather than belonging to a particular school or movement, Courbet is perhaps better known for his lack of association with any one group. His work is neither strictly Romantic nor Neoclassical, and Courbet believed the popular style of History painting to be a waste of his time. Instead, Courbet aimed to “…in short…create living art,” which he has certainly done successfully in Winter in the Jura. The painting has a life-like quality that goes beyond any kind of hyperrealism. The special silence of a snow-covered morning has been captured perfectly.

In the work, a single figure trudges through the picture plane towards a bend in the road. Flecks of red draw the viewer’s eye to what remains of the foliage in the Jura Mountains. As a native of one of the snowiest cities in the US, I’ve developed a level of comfort that comes along with snow, which Courbet conveys perfectly through Winter in the Jura. Artists like Courbet—who refuse to be pigeon-holed into one category—are often the most valuable to our art education, but also to the development of art as a whole. There is certainly something exceptional about a painting which stirs something familiar in a first-time viewer. The artist with this special capability must possess the “power of conception” and “sacred knowing” that Courbet so often mentioned in letters to friends. In this way, Courbet made himself truly free from the restraints of institutions as he always wished to, holding power to “…address the people directly” in self-portraits and scenes of snowy mornings.

Elizabeth Federici, Marketing & Communications Intern

ArtGrams: McArthur Binion

More art from up close. DNA: Black Painting: 1 by McArthur Binion. #latergram #artfromupclose #procrastigramming

A photo posted by Mike Katz (@mug.of.glop) on

This recent acquisition by McArthur Binion has been catching they eyes of visitors ever since it first went on display last year. In this month’s ArtGrams, we’re featuring some of your creative shots of DNA: Black Painting: 1 (2015). Share your photos in and around the museum for a chance to be featured on the blog.

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A visit to a museum.

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A beautiful collage that happens to be a bunch of Mississippi birth certificates. ❤️ #phillipscollection

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DNA: Black Painting 1, McArthur Binion, 2015 (Section)

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Sunday night at #ThePhillipsCollection

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ArtGrams is a monthly series in which we feature our favorite Instagrammed pictures taken around or inspired by the museum. Each month, we’ll feature a different theme based on trends we’ve seen in visitor photos. Hashtag your images with #PhillipsCollection or tag your location for a chance to be featured.