Augustus Vincent Tack’s Legacy in the Music Room

Tack installed in Music Room 1

Works by Augustus Vincent Tack on view in the Music Room. Photo: Britta Galanis

Augustus Vincent Tack has a long history here at The Phillips Collection. Tack and Duncan Phillips met in 1914 at Yale University where Phillips fostered a deep appreciation for Tack’s work. This quickly became a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives. Phillips was a driving force for the showing of Tack’s work in many museums, while Tack contributed to the growth of Phillips’s collection. Eventually Phillips encouraged him to make the move to Washington, DC, where he would continue his career making portraits for politicians and high ranking officials such as Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Phillips commissioned Tack to make a collection of works specifically with the museum’s renowned Music Room in mind. Several of these works are currently hanging in their originally intended space at the Phillips. When walking into the room, I was immediately struck by how perfectly these works fit into the space. The Music Room, with its dark and rich walls, is instantly brightened by Tack’s works.

Tack installed in Music Room 2

Works by Augustus Vincent Tack on view in the Music Room. Photo: Britta Galanis

One of the works on display is Time and Timelessness (The Spirit of Creation), which was a preparatory sketch for the fire curtain at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. These late works done by Tack show his experimentation with scale and mood. He experimented often with sponges and rollers on canvas, which gave his work a rather ancient and unfinished quality. Now is your chance to visit the Music Room and view it the way Duncan Phillips might have.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern

Staff Show 2016: Mike Guy

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

MIke Guy, "Tunnel Vision"

MIke Guy, “Tunnel Vision”


Mike Guy

Mike Guy, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Mike Guy, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Mike Guy is an artist who has been active across the DC area. He received formal training from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, studying fiber arts under Fyuko Matsubara, with a focus in silk painting and printmaking. Since then, he has exhibited in galleries across DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He has also done large-scale mural projects for schools and businesses in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Mike has independently created pieces for companies including DC Vote, WeWork, Ted X, and the National Academy of Sciences.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I am a Museum Supervisor. The most interesting part is being able to walk through the museum first thing in the morning when all the lights are off. It’s always nice to have the first thing in your day be seeing some great art.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

Top three are Kandinsky, van Gogh, and Tack.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

I am partial to the mural on the back wall of the courtyard in the alley (by four artists from Senegal) since I was the lead assistant for it.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

This painting is from my series of silk paintings Dormant. Each painting consists of one single line, which is quickly created on the silk. The nature of this method makes it so that you can’t go back and edit or erase lines after they have been laid out. I then go into the painting and add layers of color while reflecting on the initial movement in an attempt to find a balance. Each painting is a portrait, but instead of focusing on just the person, I blend them into their environment.

Find more of Guy’s artwork on his website.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

Staff Show 2014: Natalie O’Dell

In this series, we profile participants in the 2014 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show.

Natalie O'Dell, Cathedral wall, Bury St Edmunds, 2014, oil on canvas.

Natalie O’Dell, Cathedral wall, Bury St Edmunds, 2014, oil on canvas.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I’m a museum assistant and part time supervisor. My colleagues and I in the Security Department are on the floor every day, guiding visitors as they explore the collection as well as ensuring the safety of the artworks on view. We get visitors from all over the world and from a wide variety of backgrounds. The diversity of their perspectives never ceases to amaze me. Over the past year and a half at the Phillips, I have learned quite a lot from our public, refining my own opinions about art and expanding my understanding of the role cultural institutions play in the present and future.

Who is/are your favorite artist/artists in the collection?

The answer to this question is always changing, but for now I would have to say Augustus Vincent Tack. He was an amazing portraitist, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Tack’s work is spiritual, mystical, utterly entrancing, and absolutely underrated. He was ahead of his time. On top of all this, he and Duncan Phillips had a wonderful friendship and, as such, Tack played a key role in the early development of The Phillips Collection.

What is your favorite gallery/space within The Phillips Collection?

When we close for the day, I always linger a little in the foyer and parlors of the house. For me, the most compelling aspect of this collection is its link to the unique story of Duncan Phillips and his family. There’s something so wonderful about the idea of truly living with art, and I fear that this concept, though championed by Phillips, has been lost on many of my generation. Nowhere do I feel more connected to the Phillips’s story than in the entryway and living rooms of their family home, a space they ultimately opened to the public in order to share their collection and cultivate an appreciation of art in others.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2014 Staff Show (i.e. subject matter, materials, process, etc)?

My work for this year’s staff show depicts a cathedral wall in Bury St Edmunds, England. Bury is a beautiful town with a fascinating history, but I must confess I harbor a particular fondness for it because it is where my husband and I honeymooned. Though the wall is part of what is now considered a very grand building, it was at one time only a small segment of a huge complex of religious buildings that dates back to the 10th century.

When I first saw the wall I was immediately drawn to the way its surface weathering revealed its unique history. Over its many centuries of existence, the wall was changed by both human and natural forces, yet it still remains today. Indeed, its enduring presence is a testament to the permanence of the institution it houses. In painting the wall, I wanted my technique to mimic the actual process of weathering. I used successive layers of very thin paint that I allowed to drip down the canvas surface naturally while it was positioned vertically. For the floral foreground and the mold growth on the wall, I used looser brushwork, thicker paint application, and a more impressionistic technique to emphasize the difference between these transitory natural elements and the permanence of the wall behind them.

Both in selecting this painting’s subject matter and over the course of creating it, I kept the dialogue between two and three-dimensional space in mind. Representational art has historically been tied to the process of collapsing real, three-dimensional space into a fundamentally two-dimensional picture plane (which is itself presumably to be perceived as three-dimensional by the viewer). I have always been interested in this dialogue and I hope the tension between different kinds of space is highlighted by this painting’s subject.

The 2014 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view December 16, 2014 through January 19, 2015. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.