Rythme Couleur (1961) is the first work by Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979), a seminal figure in 20th century modernism, to enter The Phillips Collection. The gouache on paper is a gift from Lillianne Litton, a longtime supporter and friend of the Phillips. Delaunay and her husband Robert (1885-1941) invented a variation of cubism (called “orphism”) around 1911-12 based on simultaneous color contrasts and geometric patterns. Sonia dedicated her art to the fundamental idea that abstraction is a new reality that need not imitate the existing world. With its emphasis on geometry, color, and light, this 1961 gouache captures the essentials of her style. An intuitive artist for whom color was primary and rhythm the structural core of her compositions, Delaunay’s painting fits seamlessly with other works in the collection that emphasize similar aesthetic qualities, especially works by Kenneth Noland, Alma Thomas, and Leo Villareal.
In the Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint exhibition catalogue, Phillips Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone details Degas’s intricate process behind his late masterpiece:
“Having begun by observing the dancer from the outside, he ends his life’s work internalizing his chosen vehicle of expression to such a point that it becomes the bearer of his own physical and psychological being. In Dancers at the Barre, Degas, the old master and old man, distorts and exaggerates his subject, attenuating their limbs and twisting their bodies into an extreme expression of rigor and dedication of the discipline that made their art a perfect metaphor for his own.”
The catalogue also presents Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele’s fascinating discoveries from the painting’s recent conservation. National Gallery of Art object conservators Shelley Sturman and Daphne Barbour discuss Degas’s sculptures, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon reflects on Degas in the context of ballet today.
Full-color reproductions of all 30 works in the exhibition are accompanied by images of related works, notes from the technical analysis of additional works by Degas in the Phillips Collection, and a detailed chronology of the artist’s life. Read all about the impressionist master’s complex exploration of the figure and devotion to dance.
For the ballet lover on your list, a special “Degas Holiday Package” including a pair of tickets to the exhibition and one copy of the catalogue (hardcover, 148 pages) to take home is now available for a special rate of $60 ($54 for Phillips members) online and at the Phillips admissions desk.