Shout Your (Phillips) Love Story from the Rooftops

Over the years, rumors have run rampant about proposals in front of Luncheon of the Boating Party, romantic first dates at the Phillips, the museum as a go-to date spot for couples over lifetimes together. After all, the Phillips was founded on a love story.

So in 2009, we decided to pop the question to our visitors and members–Have you experienced an unforgettable first date, proposal, or other romantic encounter in the Phillips’s intimate galleries?

Stories began to pour out of the woodwork. From a nearly 50 year marriage that began with a first date at a  Sunday Concert in 1963, to an important second date in Pamela and Dorothy’s friendship-turned-romance (video above). Recently, we even bumped into a happy couple moments after she accepted his proposal in our Degas exhibition.

Today we reopen the call for your love stories. If you have a story to share and courage to brave the camera to tell the world, please e-mail Cecilia Wichmann by February 29, 2012, at with subject line “Love Story. “


Luncheon of the Boating Party: The Reality Show

Photos from Elaine and Dick Van Blerkom's scrapbook to commemorate Dick's 1980s birthday themed after the 1880s Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Arguably one of the finest paintings at The Phillips Collection, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party portrays a lavish gathering of Renoir’s contemporaries and colleagues for a pleasant midday meal. The work is inspiring in its subject matter, its scale, and its technique, so much so that it moved Elaine and Dick Van Blerkom to recreate their own luncheon on the C&O Canal in full period costume (hear about their first encounter with the painting on a first date to the Phillips in 1963 in their “Love Stories” video below).

The Smithsonian’s Food & Think blog has these DIY tips for an idyllic Renoir-inspired luncheon.

By all means, come and study Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phillips as a guide for your next gathering, but please note, parasols will be checked at the door.

Congratulations Jill and Eric!

Jill Zeigenfus and Eric Brafford. Photo: Margaret Collerd

Our “Love Stories” videos attest that the Phillips can be a place for romance; today I was privileged to see the museum work its magic.

I was strolling through the Degas exhibition with some colleagues when we spotted Eric Brafford bending down on one knee to propose to Jill Zeigenfus in front of Dancers at the Barre.  After we were sure she had said yes, we couldn’t resist snapping this photo.

Congratulations Jill and Eric! We’re so happy for you.