A Guided Visit with Morris Louis’s Seal (1959)

Seal (1959) by Morris Louis is a recent gift to the Phillips from the Marcella Brenner Revocable Trust. To celebrate the painting’s installation, National Gallery of Art Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Harry Cooper spoke at the Phillips in September, considering the artist’s technique and aesthetics. Learn more about the picture and Louis’s process through these excerpts from the talk.

Louis the Illusionist?

A visitor with Morris Louis's Seal, 1959. Photo: Katie Schuler

The great mid-century critic, Clement Greenberg, praised Morris Louis’s paintings for being “purely optical experience[s].” For Greenberg, Louis’s paintings were the pinnacle of abstraction: a celebration of the essential flatness of the canvas and primacy of color and devoid of any references to the real world.  But, fifty years on, it is hard to limit oneself to such narrow praise of these lyrically beautiful paintings.  Louis may not have used line to “draw” in the traditional sense, but he was a master at layering paints and manipulating the pours of color so as to create illusionistic spaces and objects. When describing his paintings, we almost always reach for language that refers to things that are tangible, even sculptural: curtains, caves, mountains, pillars . . .

Louis’s works highlight the arbitrariness of pigeonholing paintings or artists as being either “abstract” or “representational.” These works succeed in both worlds.

-Michèle Pollak, Gallery Educator

Discovering the World of Art Outside the Dome: Congressional Interns Respond to the Phillips

Last month, former foster youth who have spent the summer interning for Congress through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and the Sara Start Fund came to the Phillips for lunch and a tour. Intern Derrick Riggins shares his impressions in prose, while intern and photographer Linda Lee Zambito provides snapshots from the visit.  


The 2011 Class of Foster Youth Interns explore the Phillips. Photo: Linda Lee Zambito, Congressional intern and participant in Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Foster Youth Internship program

On July 16, The Phillips Collection blessed me as well as several other interns with a tour of its permanent collection. We all had a truly good time, but this was my first time really paying attention to the artwork and learning its history. Continue reading “Discovering the World of Art Outside the Dome: Congressional Interns Respond to the Phillips” »