Arthur B. Davies, The Hesitation of Orestes, c.1915-18. Oil on canvas, 26 x 40 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1923.
Art and Archaeology publishes Duncan Phillips’s article, “The American painter, Arthur B. Davies,” a painter about whom Phillips will write many times in the coming years. In the article, Phillips invokes Piero di Cosimo as a painter of related spirit. Around the time Phillips is writing his article, Davies is creating The Hesitation of Orestes, which clearly shares a palette, perspective, and setting with Piero’s A Hunting Scene (c. 1507-08).
. . . However, in spite of the technical distinction of the art of Davies, the originality of the work is mental rather than manual. The paradox of his aggressive attitude as a chef d ecole of modernity is that really he is only a modern edition of that quaint primitive Piero di Cosimo. In every age such dreamers seem unsatisfied, preferring evocations of the past and intimations of the future to sensations of the present hour.
In this year, Phillips acquires at least two works by Davies: Many Waters (c. 1905) and Visions of Glory (1896).
Marjorie recalls that this painting hung in the library during her first visit to Duncan's home. Julian Alden Weir, Woodland Rocks, 1910-1919. The Phillips Collection
Marjorie Acker and the Gifford Beals visit the Phillips’s house in Washington, D.C. and see the Main Gallery and North Library hung with paintings.
According to Duncan Phillips and his Collection (1970) by Marjorie Phillips, née Acker, Duncan wrote to her on May 14, 1921, about four months after they met in New York. He invited her and her “Uncle Giff’s” family to Washington “to see the collection installed.” She recollects the pleasure of waking in the morning and seeing Arthur B. Davies’s painting, Children, Dogs, and Pony, hanging by the bed. “Paintings everywhere!” she exclaims. Her impression of the neighborhood that would become her home, Dupont Circle, is of “a leisurely, almost southern village atmosphere, with hurdy-gurdies playing and men pushing their carts of fresh flowers or fruits, crying ‘Stra-a-berries’ in loud melodious voices.” Duncan and Marjorie were married in October of 1921, opening the collection to the public soon after.
Brochure for "An Exhibition of Expressionist Painters from the Experiment Station of the Phillips Memorial Gallery", The Baltimore Museum of Art, April 8-May 1, 1927. From The Phillips Collection Archives.
Two loan exhibitions open in Baltimore, Maryland: An Exhibition of Expressionist Painters from the Experiment Station of the Phillips Memorial Gallery (April 8–May 1, 1927) at The Baltimore Museum of Art, W. Mount Vernon Place, and American Themes by American Painters (April 12–May 3, 1927) at the Friends of Art, 8 East Pleasant Street.
In the first sentence of his essay for the catalogue of American Themes by American Painters, Duncan Phillips makes clear the argument behind his passionate collecting of American art: “This Exhibition [...] is an answer to the charge that our painting is an imitation of the French.” The show contains works by truly American painters such as Charles Sheeler, John Sloan, and Charles Burchfield, among others.