Spotlight on The Red Sun: Part II

Image of works by Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Miro, and Alexander Calder

(Left) Ellsworth Kelly, Red Relief, 2009. Oil on canvas, two joined panels, 80 x 62 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. Private collection. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson, courtesy the artist © Ellsworth Kelly (middle) Joan Miró, The Red Sun, 1948. Oil and gouache on canvas, 36 1/8 x 28 1/8 in. Acquired 1951. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (right) Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1948. Painted sheet metal and wire, 26 x 26 x 5 1/2 in. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Read Part I of this series 

It is always fun to hear the stories behind a work of art, giving an otherwise unknown perspective on the painting. Duncan Phillips wanted to show “art beyond ‘isms,’” and I found it interesting that while he was not keen on surrealism, he acquired Joan Miró’s The Red Sun (1948) on the grounds that it fit in with the rest of his collection. Our guide for this spotlight talk, Paul Ruther, pointed out this connectivity and discussed the painting’s similarities to other works currently on view nearby–the surrounding Ellsworth Kelly panels (use of similar, bright primary colors) and Alexander Calder mobiles (floating objects in space).

Miró’s whimsy was not only evident in his art, but also his personality. After visiting the United States and New York for the first time, he returned to Spain with an unusual souvenir—sidewalk toys, which he added to his personal toy collection. In fact, some of the toys’ faces are strikingly similar to the background face in this painting!

Hannah Hoffman, Marketing Intern

Congenial Spirits: Inseparable

Alexander Calder standing mobile, Untitled, 1948

Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1948. Painted sheet metal and wire; 26 x 26 x 5 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953.

We blogged last July when friends Alexander Calder and Joan Miró appeared along our spiral staircase, and now they’re back! But this time, the pairing includes Calder’s 1948 Untitled standing mobile, one I haven’t seen in person before. It’s a delightful and delicate discovery as one rounds the stairs to the second floor of the Goh Annex.

Happy Birthday Duncan Phillips

Works by Milton Avery, Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, and Karl Knaths

Clockwise from top left: Milton Avery, Black Sea, 1959. Oil on canvas, 50 x 67 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Robert Motherwell, In White and Yellow Ochre, 1961. Oil, charcoal, ink, tempera and paper collage on paper, 40 7/8 x 27 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Alexander Calder, Only, Only Bird, 1951. Tin cans and wire, 11 x 17 x 39 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1966. Karl Knaths, The Blue Heron at the Tide Wash, 1956. Oil on canvas; 24 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965.

I had the pleasure of speaking last night to Alice Phillips Swistel, great-niece of Duncan Phillips who was born today in 1886. It’s not surprising that the conversation came around to her memories of him. Though I’ve worked here for over five years and handled many of Phillips’s belongings–his journals, book collection, letters–I always welcome more insight. Above are images of five works Phillips purchased in the last months of his life. I think the selection is telling, featuring his devoted friendship and support of artists (Knaths), and his appreciation for complexity (Motherwell). These works display many of the hallmarks of Phillips as a collector: his patronage and loyalty, the joy of discovering, a passion for seeking the new.