Augustus Vincent Tack’s Legacy in the Music Room

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Works by Augustus Vincent Tack on view in the Music Room. Photo: Britta Galanis

Augustus Vincent Tack has a long history here at The Phillips Collection. Tack and Duncan Phillips met in 1914 at Yale University where Phillips fostered a deep appreciation for Tack’s work. This quickly became a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives. Phillips was a driving force for the showing of Tack’s work in many museums, while Tack contributed to the growth of Phillips’s collection. Eventually Phillips encouraged him to make the move to Washington, DC, where he would continue his career making portraits for politicians and high ranking officials such as Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Phillips commissioned Tack to make a collection of works specifically with the museum’s renowned Music Room in mind. Several of these works are currently hanging in their originally intended space at the Phillips. When walking into the room, I was immediately struck by how perfectly these works fit into the space. The Music Room, with its dark and rich walls, is instantly brightened by Tack’s works.

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Works by Augustus Vincent Tack on view in the Music Room. Photo: Britta Galanis

One of the works on display is Time and Timelessness (The Spirit of Creation), which was a preparatory sketch for the fire curtain at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. These late works done by Tack show his experimentation with scale and mood. He experimented often with sponges and rollers on canvas, which gave his work a rather ancient and unfinished quality. Now is your chance to visit the Music Room and view it the way Duncan Phillips might have.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern

Two Sides of One Painter

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Installation view of Jake Berthot: From the Permanent Collection and Promised Gifts

Bold shades of yellow screamed out from the canvas, with each layer striving to grab my attention. The densely built up surfaces of abstract forms projected into my space, to the extent that the paintings themselves became three-dimensional. The expressive texture and spontaneity in Jake Berthot’s Yellow/Yellow were enough to captivate me, along with his other equally dynamic paintings displayed throughout the gallery.

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Jake Berthot, Untitled (Trees), 1996

I entered the next gallery just as I started to feel overwhelmed by the intense emotions I read in his rough impasto techniques. This room, where his later works are displayed, offered a completely different atmosphere; instead of the highly expressive brushstrokes and abstract forms seen in the previous gallery, the paintings here were strikingly calm, devoid of any saturated colors.

In his later years, Berthot mostly depicted landscapes, focusing on proportion and perspective. His sketches are filled with grids exploring the geometry behind the natural landscape; it’s almost as if the artist had never been interested in abstract expressions like the ones seen in his previous works.

Walking around this gallery made me feel like I was stealing into the artist’s working studio while he left for a break; many of the works seem unfinished. In Untitled (Trees), underlying pencil grids are visible, drawing a stark contrast with the way nature is depicted in Pond, an earlier work by Berthot displayed in the previous gallery.

Why do his works look so different? Did he develop a sudden interest in ratio and perspective in his later years?

Berthot mentioned stylistic changes in an interview in 2013: “Young painters now know me as a representational painter. Many of my peers wonder what happened to the abstract painter. No matter what, I am still the same painter.”

Do you see the connection? What makes him “the same painter” despite the apparent stylistic differences?

Summer Park, Marketing & Communications Intern

Jake Berthot: From the Collection and Promised Gifts is on view through April 2, 2017.

ArtGrams: Framing the Elephant

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Photo: Instagram/nicoleeboni

We’re sad to see Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color go, but Appel’s The Elephant remains on our corner for a bit longer! In this month’s ArtGrams, we’re sharing your creative shots of this sculpture. Share your photos in and around the museum for a chance to be featured on the blog.

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Photo: Instagram/francoisehazel

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Photo: Instagram/kac906

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Photo: Instagram/esoteric_soiree

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Photo: Instagram/caseycats

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Photo: Instagram/jenniferway

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Photo: Instagram/rejanefe

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Photo: Instagram/efstewart

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Photo: Instagram/quicoycoco

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.