Lunar New Year: Year of the Horse Day 13

Phillips family on horseback

The Phillips family on an excursion in an unknown location. Left to right: Eliza Laughlin Phillips, Major Duncan Clinch Phillips, unknown companion, Jim Phillips, Duncan Phillips, and a guide, before 1918. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives.

It was unknown to me when we started this Year of the Horse series that there was a little bit of important trivia to be learned. Thanks to Ianthe Gergel, we now know that the surname “Phillips” means “son of Phillip”, and that the given name Philip comes from the Latin name Philippus, meaning “fond of horses.”

Treasures by Arthur Hall Smith

A plate from Arthur's handmade book for the Phillipses showing visiting nuns admiring Matisse's Studio, Quai Saint-Michel, 1916.

A plate from Arthur’s handmade book for the Phillips’s showing visiting nuns admiring Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint-Michel. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.

Arthur Hall Smith was a beloved employee during his tenure at The Phillips Collection, from 1960-1974. In 1960, the Phillips expanded into an annex which generated the need for more staff. In an oral history, Smith recalled interviewing for the job: “I bought a new pair of shoes and I went out to the Phillips’s house for the interview… they showed me a model of the new building and where they wanted to place me, which was the second floor because it had the Renoir, the Bonnards–really the ‘high rent place’ and he [Duncan Phillips] thought I would be a good welcoming presence there.” Arthur’s welcoming presence and French speaking ability made him a frequent guest at the home of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, and unofficial translator for tours and foreign visitors to the museum.

Arthur made the Phillips’s a miniature book for Christmas one year, with depictions of the Phillips house with people, including two nuns, looking at paintings in the collection. During the major Cézanne exhibition in 1971, Smith went to a nearby “head shop” which sold pipes and other drug paraphernalia. The store also sold all kinds of buttons, so Smith got thirty of them and painted them ochre with a hand-painted Braque bird and the word “Staff,” and finished them with a heavy lacquer.

Handmade staff buttons

Handmade staff buttons. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.

Arthur died in February of 2013 in Paris, France, where he lived for many years. A transcript of his oral history interview is available in the library.

In Memory of Anita Reiner

Anita Reiner standing in front a human figure cloaked in black.

Photo: Courtesy Wendy Grossman

Passionate art lover and Phillips friend Anita Reiner passed away on August 15, 2013. Anita and her husband, Burton, became International Forum members in 2009 and enthusiastically joined Phillips trips to Dallas-Fort Worth and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Phillips Curatorial Associate Wendy Grossman relays this touching story of Anita’s early connection with the Phillips:

“A serendipitous encounter at The Phillips Collection in the early years of her quest to learn about modern art was instrumental in shaping the open-minded attitude that ultimately guided Anita’s collecting philosophy. While looking inquisitively at the newly installed paintings by Mark Rothko, she was approached by an elderly gentleman—as she tells it—who asked her what she thought. To which she mumbled an indifferent reply. The man told her: ‘Young lady, you always have to meet new art half way.’ She never forgot that. The man, she subsequently learned, was Duncan Phillips.”