Franz Marc, Deer in the Forest I, 1913. Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 41 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953
If you happen to walk through the Music Room, take a look to your right on the way to the staircase. There by the elevator hangs one of my favorite works in The Phillips Collection, Deer in the Forest I (1913). The artist, Franz Marc, combines cubism and symbolism in this painting, creating a dynamic landscape filled with vibrant colors and bold lines. One of the main reasons I love this painting so much (besides the adorable cubist deer!) is because of the symbolic way Marc used color. Franz Marc always used color to tell a story, or to represent a feeling in his works instead of just recreating the physical reality of his subjects. It is known also that Marc assigned certain characteristics to each color that he used. Blue was the color Marc used to represent masculinity and spirituality, yellow he identified as feminine and joyful, and red symbolized either serious undertones or violence. By knowing the symbolism in Franz Marc’s use of color, Deer in the Forest I takes on new meaning. The foreground of the painting is dominated by the yellow deer themselves and the green of their surroundings, evoking a sense of security and contentment. But the red splashed over the background looms above the deer, hinting, perhaps, at the danger and violence that lurks outside of their peaceful forest home.
Read more about this work on our website.
Veronica Parker, Director’s Office Intern
Paul Signac, Setting Sun. Sardine Fishing. Adagio. (1891) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
When I first heard The Phillips Collection was going to have a Neo-Impressionism exhibition, I immediately thought of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and the technique used to create it—pointillism. Pointillism is a technique in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. In a staff tour of the exhibition Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: Painting, Poetry, Music, exhibition curator Cornelia Homburg said that while the artists’ technique cannot be ignored, the beauty of the exhibition is really in the exploration of the imagery evoked that is often overlooked when considering Neo-Impressionism. Her perspective made me realize that I myself never truly look at the content of Neo-Impressionist works because I’m usually too fascinated with the technique used. However, Homburg stressed that the technique is important because it suggests a sense of radiance and allows the content of the images to resonate with the viewer.
The exhibition focuses on a time when there was an active exchange of ideas between painters, writers, composers, and poets which encouraged a synergy of senses. One of the pieces, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio by Paul Signac suggests this very idea of synthesis between art and music with his poetic title. Many of the works within the exhibition demonstrate a poetic quality that suggests a mood rather than a precise narrative, emphasizing a fantastical scene. Reality is captured, but it’s the stylistic techniques that create a feeling of dreaming. While one cannot ignore the ‘dots’, I urge you to embrace their revolutionary style and employ it to address their dreamlike, yet realistic content.
—Kelley Daley, Graduate Intern for Programs and Lectures