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.
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.
As D.C. continues a gloomy week of winter drizzle, Marjorie Phillips‘s Montauk Point (c. 1922) reminds us of more pleasant days to come. This work was recently placed on view and greets us in the stairwell between Goh Annex and Music Room. If the painting cheers, the effect is intentional; Marjorie said of her work:
“I decided to paint the celebration of the wonder of the world. I didn’t want to paint depressing pictures. . . . That’s why my paintings are all on the cheerful side—I felt it was needed.”
Not only are we reminded of beach days to come, but the painting transports us to the heart of the story that unfolds in upcoming exhibition Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet. Montauk Point State Park lies just beyond East Hampton where Jackson Pollock and Alfonso Ossorio made their homes and cultivated a friendship that inspired great artistic production. In just 24 days, the exhibition brings that world to the Phillips.