John Marin at Amon Carter Museum

John Marin, Quoddy Head, Maine Coast, 1933.Watercolor and black chalk on off-white watercolor paper, 15 1/2 x 22 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1937.

We’ve got plenty of John Marin on view here as part of the Eye to Eye: Joseph Marioni at the Phillips installation, but if you find yourself in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Phillips’s Quoddy Head, Maine Coast is on loan as part of Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s exhibition John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury, which just opened over the weekend.

Discovering Ralph Flint, Part II

A few days ago, I wrote about my first encounter with the undated drawing Metropolis by an artist of whom I had zero awareness, Ralph Flint. On a trip to The Phillips Collection library, I discovered through light research that Flint was a critic as well as an artist, but it wasn’t until Librarian Karen Schneider came to me with an exciting find that a portrait of Flint began to emerge.

In a thin file of ephemera related to Flint, Schneider found a letter sent directly by Flint to Duncan Phillips describing his progress on a review of the current art season for Phillips’s magazine, Art and Understanding, as well as some amusing personal anecdotes.


Letter from Ralph Flint to Duncan Phillips. Courtesy Phillips Collection Archives.

This letter, in addition to his essay in Art and Understanding, convincingly casts Flint as a writer who ran with Alfred Stieglitz’s circle and apparently was close and personable with Duncan Phillips. Continue reading “Discovering Ralph Flint, Part II” »

The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye

Alec MacKaye, preparator

Photo: Claire Norman

How did you learn about the Phillips?

This is a funny question [for a Washington, D.C. native]! Like asking how did one first hear about the White House or the cherry blossoms or Neil Armstrong. I heard about The Phillips Collection because it holds a place in United States cultural history, in D.C. history, and  in the art world. It may not be among the loudest of voices in the museum-iverse, but some things don’t need a brass band or sky writing to announce their presence.

Not to mention, being a fifth generation Washingtonian, I suppose I learned of the Phillips before I was born – my mother’s next-door neighbor and sometimes painting instructor was a man named Edgar Hewitt Nye. Two of his paintings are held in The Phillips Collection (and many more in the MacKaye Collection!), and his wife, Elizabeth Quackenbush Nye, was my parents’ English teacher at Sidwell Friends. So you see, it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly when I first heard of The Phillips Collection – it was part of me before I knew it.

You’re a musician, a writer, and an artist – do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?

Yes – and then more broadly, through it. There are a few certain objects that float before me when I am thinking of something, usually a Alfred Pinkham Ryder or a Philip Guston or a John Marin, and more than that, working here affords me the opportunity to see more than just what we hold. The small Hiroshige show we had a few years back changed the way I dream.

What do you listen to as you’re making art?

Silence, unless I want or need something to force my hand – then its Library of Congress field recordings or punk rock or dub reggae.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I won’t tell which ones I usually say I like most,  names that most people recognize – instead I will give a couple of names that should send folks to the “search” function on our website, since they likely  haven’t seen them on our walls:  Henry Gershwin, Joseph Solman. I like these two not necessarily for their high finish or classic theme but more for their direct delivery. Continue reading “The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye” »