New York State of Mind

Photo: Piper Grosswendt

A fresh suite of artworks quietly debuted earlier this month in a small gallery, on the second floor of the House. As hallmark pieces of the museum’s American art collection shipped off to Tokyo for To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, and with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in mind, Installations Manager Bill Koberg thought to fill the space with a few choice pieces of New York abstraction from the 1930s-50s.

Gandy Brodie’s undated painting Fragment of a City (1957) anchors the East side of the room, opposite Loren MacIver’s New York (1952). A subtler MacIver, The Window Shade (1948) and Berenice Abbott’s modern consideration of the city as landscape Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place (1936) hang on the North wall across from Aaron Siskind’s photograph New York 6 (1951) and Ralph Flint’s undated colored pencil drawing Metropolis (undated), acquired by the Collection in 1931. The Flint work brings with it some mystery — unframed prior to its recent hanging, Koberg is uncertain if it’s ever graced the walls of the Phillips. Continue reading “New York State of Mind” »

Summer Heat and Gardens

Karl Knaths, Green Squash, 1948. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 27 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1948.

Summer solstice isn’t until June 21, but it has certainly felt like summer already. Late spring of 1943 was also hot. Letters from Elmira Bier, Duncan Phillips’s assistant, to Alfred Stieglitz sound much like conversation you would hear around our Dupont Circle neighborhood today. On June 29, 1943, she writes, “I trust [my letter] finds you well and able to stand this heat. I am tiring a little of one topic of conversation but no one seems able to avoid it.” In a letter a few weeks before, she lovingly described her gardening:

At the moment we are having a nice summer shower which will be fine for the brockely[sic] I set out last night. My dream for a small house and a large garden is still only the stuff dreams are made of but I have the use of a garden where I have put cabbages among my roses and tomatoes with my violets so weather has become very important to me. I’ll report on the crops later.

Ms. Bier started working for The Phillips Collection in 1923 and retired in 1972.