Behind the Blue: Ambroise Vollard and Pío Baroja

behind the blue_ambroise baroja

Images, left to right: Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1910. Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia; Infrared of Pablo Picasso’s The Blue Room (1901). The Phillips Collection, copyright 2008; Pío Baroja, photographed by Prieto.

After discovering a hidden painting underneath the Phillips’s The Blue Room (1901) by Pablo Picasso, conservators and curators are still researching the identity of the person in the portrait. You’ve been calling, e-mailing, tweeting, and posting your ideas about who the mystery man might be. We’re sharing information on the most popular suggestions here on the blog. Today, we focus on Ambroise Vollard and Pío Baroja.

One of the most frequent suggestions continues to be Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939), a foremost European art dealer at the turn of the century. Known for his keen eye in recognizing rising stars, he amassed an impressive list of artistic connections, including Paul  Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and Vincent van Gogh. Vollard boasted the first one-man exhibition of Picasso’s work, and in fact the artist did create a portrait or two of his dealer during his lifetime. However, this was not a terribly uncommon practice. One Phillips patron wrote in noting that the small lips, body language and type, as well as outfit seem very similar to other portraits of Vollard.

Another name that has come up several times is Pío Baroja (1872–1956). Baroja was a writer best known for his seminal work The Tree of Knowledge. While his novels never reached the height of popularity, likely due to his penchant for pessimism, he is still considered one of the leading Spanish novelists of the period. Baroja was a member of the Generation of ’98, a group that lead the way in avant-garde change in Spain and which paved the way for artists like Picasso. A Phillips follower tweeted that Picasso drew him for Arte Joven while in Madrid.

We want to hear your thoughts! Send us your suggestions for who the mystery man may be with #BlueRoom or in the comments below We’ll collect the most popular (and some of our favorites) on the blog over the next week.

On Shelves Now: The Phillips Book Prize Series

Phillips Book Prize library display

Photos: Amy Wike, Eliza French

The next time you’re in the shop, look for the Phillips Book Prize display, highlighting a series of first books sponsored by the museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art.

The Center awards a biennial book prize for an unpublished manuscript presenting new research in modern or contemporary art from 1780 to the present. Preference is given to applicants whose research focuses on subjects related to the Phillips’s areas of collecting. Scholars who received their PhDs within the past five years are strongly encouraged to apply. The winning author receives $5,000, and his or her manuscript will be published by the University of California Press.

UC Press has published five books in the series so far. The museum has awarded the sixth and seventh prizes, and the manuscripts for those books are in the works.

A complete list of the winning manuscripts is below:

Alicia Volk, In Pursuit of Universalism: Yorozu Tetsugoro and Japanese Modern Art
Terri Weissman, The Realisms of Berenice Abbott
André Dombrowski, Cézanne, Murder, and Modern Life
Lauren Kroiz, Creative Composites, Modernism, Race, and the Stieglitz Circle
Robert Slifkin, Out of Time: Philip Guston and the Refiguration of Postwar American Art
Charles F.B. Miller, Radical Picasso: Surrealism and the Theory of the Avant-Garde (expected 2015)
Joyce Tsai, Painting after Photography (expected 2016)

Eliza French, Manager of Center Initiatives

A “New” Delacroix?

Comparison of two side by side works by Eugene Delacroix

(Left) Eugène Delacroix, The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius, undated. 25.6 x 31.7 in. The Van Asch van Wyck Trust (Right) Eugène Delacroix, Hercules and Alcestis, 1862. Oil on cardboard, 12 3/4 x 19 1/4 in. Acquired 1940. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

I recently stumbled on this article by Christopher Knight in The Los Angeles Times that reports on the possible discovery of a new work by Eugène Delacroix. The article states that a curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art believes The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius (above left) to be a previously unidentified painting by the artist. It’s currently included in an exhibition displayed next to similar works by the artist, as well as a known copy, to demonstrate the argument.

Compare it above with Delacroix’s Hercules and Alcestis from The Phillips Collection. What do you think?

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager