Staff Show 2014 Sneak Peek

Sue Ahn, The Luncheon of the TPC party (detail), 2014, color pencil

Sue Ahn, The Luncheon of the TPC party (detail), 2014, color pencil


We are in the midst of installing this year’s James McLaughlin Memorial Staff show, but here’s a sneak peek. Can you guess which painting from our collection inspired Museum Assistant Sue Ahn’s own work at left?

It’s Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party!

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.



Frames by a Friend

James McLaughlin holding Marjorie Phillips's painting

Detail of a photo of James McLaughlin with a group of young museum-goers, holding Marjorie Phillips’s painting, Night Baseball. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives.

James (Jim) McLaughlin worked at The Phillips Collection for almost five decades as a gallery preparator and curator. He shared a close relationship with Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, and he often accompanied their family on trips to their summer home in Pennsylvania.

A painter, a family man, and a self-taught craftsman, McLaughlin built his own house and carved frames for many paintings in The Phillips Collection. The above photo shows McLaughlin holding a frame he carved for Marjorie Phillips’s painting, Night Baseball. Phillips Installations Manager Bill Koberg recalls the frames that McLaughlin sometimes carved for works loaned to the Phillips without frames: “He used a profile and carved into it an alternating U-shape pattern that traveled across the face. Splendid to see.” U-shaped ornamental patterns are sometimes referred to as “egg and dart” or “lamb’s tongue” by woodworkers and frame specialists. McLaughlin’s nephew, David McLaughlin, says, “Not only did he make his own frames, as we know, but put frames together for many other paintings that came into The Phillips Collection. . . . He became known for his lovely custom-gouged and distressed frame work, so many other painters in the area used his beautiful frames . . .”

During a recent visit to Laurie McLaughlin Ward’s home (McLaughlin’s daughter), the U-shape ornamental motif could be seen in many of McLaughlin’s frames. Below is a photo taken at Laurie’s house of a Duncan Phillips painting in a frame that McLaughlin carved.

Photos: Jenna Kowalke-Jones

To honor James McLaughlin’s memory, The Phillips Collection has held an annual staff show since 1984, to feature the works of artists employed at the museum.

The 2012 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view September 4-October 9, 2012.  Please join us for the reception on September 27, 5:30-8 pm. This year’s show features 35 artworks, of various media, all by Phillips Collection staff.

Jenna Kowalke-Jones, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator

“The sort of a person we would all like to be, but aren’t . . .”

Read part one of Jenna’s remembrance of James McLaughlin and history of the staff show here.

James McLaughlin with a group of young museum-goers, holding Marjorie Phillips's painting, Night Baseball. Photo courtesy Phillips Collection Archives.

Duncan and Marjorie Phillips’s son Laughlin described his fondness for James McLaughlin and his character at McLaughlin’s 1982 memorial service:

Jim was in many ways my mentor. When he first came to the Collection, he was 24 and I was 9. I didn’t come to the gallery much those days. But, during summer visits to our family home in Pennsylvania, he taught me about the woods and the mountains, and how to mix paints, and hammer a nail and throw a curve. His enthusiasms were legion and irresistible.

My mother and I feel a great personal loss and a great loss to the Collection. Jim knew every painting here. Every nook and cranny of the building. He approached his work with the creative spirit and sensibilities of an artist – never those of a museum bureaucrat.

He was fiercely loyal to the Collection and proud of it. And well he might be, because everything here has been under his care, for 49 years.

Jim was the sort of a person we would all like to be, but aren’t. He was a man of principle and deep conviction. Strong, and yet extraordinarily sensitive. A gentleman. Independent and able.

The personal memories and anecdotes shared by Phillips staff that knew him make McLaughlin a legendary figure in the museum’s history. According to Alec MacKaye, McLaughlin built and carved many wooden frames specifically for paintings included in The Phillips Collection. Beyond the walls of the Phillips, Bill Koberg recalls that McLaughlin built his own house. Koberg, a preparator here for 40 years, worked closely with and learned from McLaughlin.

Through McLaughlin’s memory and legacy of a staff show, The Phillips Collection continues to cultivate the artistic community that McLaughlin encouraged and esteemed during his lifetime.

Jenna Kowalke-Jones, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator