A plate from Arthur’s handmade book for the Phillips’s showing visiting nuns admiring Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint-Michel. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.
Arthur Hall Smith was a beloved employee during his tenure at The Phillips Collection, from 1960-1974. In 1960, the Phillips expanded into an annex which generated the need for more staff. In an oral history, Smith recalled interviewing for the job: “I bought a new pair of shoes and I went out to the Phillips’s house for the interview… they showed me a model of the new building and where they wanted to place me, which was the second floor because it had the Renoir, the Bonnards–really the ‘high rent place’ and he [Duncan Phillips] thought I would be a good welcoming presence there.” Arthur’s welcoming presence and French speaking ability made him a frequent guest at the home of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, and unofficial translator for tours and foreign visitors to the museum.
Arthur made the Phillips’s a miniature book for Christmas one year, with depictions of the Phillips house with people, including two nuns, looking at paintings in the collection. During the major Cézanne exhibition in 1971, Smith went to a nearby “head shop” which sold pipes and other drug paraphernalia. The store also sold all kinds of buttons, so Smith got thirty of them and painted them ochre with a hand-painted Braque bird and the word “Staff,” and finished them with a heavy lacquer.
Handmade staff buttons. The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington D.C.
Marjorie Phillips, Giants vs. Mets, 1964, Oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 42 in.; 92.075 x 106.68 cm.. Gift of the artist, 1984. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.
I was drawn into Marjorie Phillips’sGiants vs Mets (1964) not only for its outstanding perspective and subject matter (her baseball paintings are among my very favorites at The Phillips Collection) but also for the unique moment in the game that she chose to capture. Since there is no scoreboard featured we cannot distinctly determine the exact point in time or the score of the game, but we see runners at second and third, which presents a scoring opportunity for the team at-bat. The right-handed hitter (determined by the positioning of his follow-through) has just made contact with the ball, as we see several players looking skyward. However, the runners at second and third are not actively sprinting towards their destinations, and the player in left field is actively locating the ball in the air.
Doing some further research, this particular game may have been the May 31, 1964 game between the San Francisco Giants at the New York Mets. They played a double-header, San Francisco taking the first game 5-3 and also the second, marathon-length 7 hour and 23 minute game by a score of 8-6. That second game lasted 23 innings and New York tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring 3 runs to force the extra innings. Joe Christopher was at bat for the Mets and he hits right-handed, driving in a home run to left-field/center-field to bring home Roy McMillan from third base and Frank Thomas from second base.
See what Duncan and Marjorie likely saw on their visit to Shea Stadium for Mets vs Giants: