Some Company While You Wait

Marjorie Phillips's painting, Portrait of Duncan, undated, on view in Office Visitor Reception. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Marjorie Phillips’s painting, Portrait of Duncan, undated, on view in Office Visitor Reception. Photo: Joshua Navarro

I thought we might enjoy getting a “close look” at Duncan Phillips, our founder, rather than just reading or hearing about him. I chose Portrait of Duncan (undated) by Marjorie Phillips, perhaps because who better than his wife and fellow artist would be able to convey this distinguished figure as a real person. She painted several portraits of him in different settings; but, in this one, he is seen in his later years, book in hand, relaxing at home and surrounded by two of his own paintings (at top) and one by Marjorie (at left). The meaning of his look and style . . . well, I leave all that up to the viewer. It’s worth at least a thousand words.

Joseph Holbach, Chief Registrar and Director of Special Initiatives

International Women’s Day : Women Artists at the Phillips

Despite being a pioneer in his collecting of modern art, Duncan Phillips did not extend his exploration of the non-traditional to women artists. They make up a small percentage of the works he and his wife, Marjorie, collected as well as the works added since. 2008 Postdoctoral Fellow Jennifer T. Criss attempted to identify why women are so underrepresented in the collection, but the question is difficult to answer. She concluded that Phillips valued the power of an individual work above all else, favoring a painting’s ability to produce an emotional reaction in the viewer above other qualities or associations. So while Duncan’s partnership with Marjorie or his personal reliance on women in his business life (to be explored in blog posts later this month) did not result in the rich collection of women artists that one might hope, there are some very strong and wonderful works by women at the Phillips. Below is a selection of works that were acquired by Duncan Phillips. Updated: Read a post on Phillips’s powerful secretary, Elmira Bier.

Theresa Bernstein, Girlhood, 1921, Oil on canvas

Theresa Bernstein, Girlhood, 1921. Oil on canvas, 29 x 35 1/8 in. Acquired 1924. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Isabel Bishop, Lunch Counter, circa 1940, Oil, egg tempera and pencil on hardboard

Isabel Bishop, Lunch Counter, c. 1940. Oil, egg tempera and pencil on hardboard, 23 x 14 in. Acquired 1941. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Laura Douglas, Symphony No. 2, Charleston, 1934, Gouache and ink on paper

Laura Douglas, Symphony No. 2, Charleston, 1934. Gouache and ink on paper, 17 3/4 x 23 5/8 in. Acquired 1942. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Loren MacIver,  New York, 1952, Oil on canvas

Loren MacIver, New York, 1952. Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 74 in. Acquired 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Meet Me in Montauk

(Left) Reynolds Beal, In the Rips off Montauk, 1928, Drypoint on paper; 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7 cm). Acquisition date unknown. (Right) Rattner, Abraham, Window at Montauk Point, 1943, Oil on canvas; 25 5/8 x 32 in.; 65.0875 x 81.28 cm.. Acquired 1943.

(Left) Reynolds Beal, In the Rips off Montauk, 1928, Drypoint on paper; 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7 cm). Acquisition date unknown. (Right) Rattner, Abraham, Window at Montauk Point, 1943, Oil on canvas; 25 5/8 x 32 in.; 65.0875 x 81.28 cm.. Acquired 1943.

Seems that we have three paintings in the collection that capture Montauk. Reynolds Beal puts us out at sea in the choppy waters. Abraham Rattner keeps us safe inside, looking out at the lighthouse through a window. In Marjorie Phillips’s painting, which was recently hung in the stairwell by the Music Room (often home to her painting, Night Baseball, 1951), we’re high above a natural beach without a structure or another person in sight.

Marjorie Phillips, Montauk Point, circa 1922.

Marjorie Phillips, Montauk Point, circa 1922, Oil on canvas, 18 7/8 x 30 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Bequest of Elmira Bier, 1976. Photo: Sarah Osborne Bender