Grab Your Passport: American Painters in Far-Flung Places

Jean Charlot, Leopard Hunter, undated, Oil on canvas

Jean Charlot, Leopard Hunter, undated. Oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930.

It’s been four years since I started to research the American collection at the Phillips as the curator of an international exhibition, To See As Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, intended to feature the broad scope of the museum’s American holdings from 1850 to 1960. One fascinating aspect of our American collection that I discovered is the number of works painted in far-flung places that were certainly not typical destinations for American or European artists. Like all traveling exhibition projects, not everything of interest could be on the final checklist for reasons that range from condition of the work to available gallery space in other institutions. Even though the idea of “exotic locales” could not be explored in the traveling show, it continued to have a firm foothold in my imagination, and I always hoped there would be an opportunity to play with the idea in The Phillips Collection’s own galleries. This summer is that moment, and I’m grateful to my fellow curators for their enthusiastic support. Our one room installation in the original Phillips house is organized around “American Artists Travel to Exotic Locales.” It includes Chiefs and Performers in Fiji, an 1891 watercolor by John La Farge; Samoa, a 1907 painting by Louis Michael Eilshemius; Benares, a large 1912 canvas by Maurice Sterne inspired by the ancient and holy city along the Ganges River; two small 1918 oil sketches of Persia (today’s Iran) by Harold Weston; Waterfall, Haiti, a 1954 Gifford Beal canvas that is a large, loosely brushed and expressionistic interpretation of the lush and exotic landscape of that Caribbean island; and Leopard Hunter, from 1930 or before, by the French-born American painter Jean Charlot that is an imaginative depiction of a local hunter in the tropical Mexican forest.

The installation is a great chance to travel vicariously and have some summer fun.

Susan Behrends Frank, Associate Curator for Research

Paintings installed in Gallery F.

Paintings installed in Gallery F. Photos: Sarah Osborne Bender

New York State of Mind

Photo: Piper Grosswendt

A fresh suite of artworks quietly debuted earlier this month in a small gallery, on the second floor of the House. As hallmark pieces of the museum’s American art collection shipped off to Tokyo for To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, and with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in mind, Installations Manager Bill Koberg thought to fill the space with a few choice pieces of New York abstraction from the 1930s-50s.

Gandy Brodie’s undated painting Fragment of a City (1957) anchors the East side of the room, opposite Loren MacIver’s New York (1952). A subtler MacIver, The Window Shade (1948) and Berenice Abbott’s modern consideration of the city as landscape Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place (1936) hang on the North wall across from Aaron Siskind’s photograph New York 6 (1951) and Ralph Flint’s undated colored pencil drawing Metropolis (undated), acquired by the Collection in 1931. The Flint work brings with it some mystery — unframed prior to its recent hanging, Koberg is uncertain if it’s ever graced the walls of the Phillips. Continue reading “New York State of Mind” »

Summer Menu: The Fish Bucket

As part of D.C. Eats: Summer of Food, we’ve invited foodies and chefs from around the city to guest blog about their favorite food-focused work of art in The Phillips Collection. John Critchley is executive chef at Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar. Read more posts in the Summer Menu series here

Gifford Beal, The Fish Bucket, 1924. Oil on canvas; 24 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1925.

I chose Gifford Beal’s The Fish Bucket because it reminds me of two important places in my life. My hometown of Scituate, Massachusetts on Cape Cod bay. The painting also reminds me of a ten month stint I spent from October 2007 to May 2008 harvesting and growing oysters on the coast of Massachusetts with some of the most passionate growers I have ever met — the owners at the Island Creek Oysters Company. I loved the long, cold days and learning all there is about harvesting and growing oysters. We built a floating house on a dock so that the oysters wouldn’t freeze. It was a very memorable experience.

Every turn in my life has been connected to the sea in some way, from my days as a dishwasher at the Red Lion Inn in Scituate, to my days as a sous chef at Uni Sashimi Bar in Boston to my days as the executive chef at Area 31, named after Miami’s ecologically sound fishing region encompassing the Western Atlantic Ocean. Now, as the executive chef at Urbana, I enjoy using all that the Chesapeake and Eastern Atlantic has to offer to create a sustainable, fresh, and locally-sourced menu. Some of my favorites include golden tilefish, black bass, Maryland blue crabs, and Rhode Island calamari.

-John Critchley, Urbana