Congenial Spirits: Nudes 100 Years Apart

Duncan Phillips once explained “I bring together congenial spirits among the artists from different parts of the world and from different periods of time.” Phillips’s curatorial philosophy is a hallmark of The Phillips Collection and gives visitors the opportunity to see artworks from different time periods, originating from different countries, created by different artists displayed together under one roof.  Displaying artworks in this way allows visitors to discover new relationships between familiar artworks.

(left) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Small Bather, 1826. Oil on canvas, 12 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1948.(right) Pierre Bonnard, Nude in an Interior, c. 1935. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 19 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1952.

(left) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Small Bather, 1826. Oil on canvas, 12 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1948.(right) Pierre Bonnard, Nude in an Interior, c. 1935. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 19 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1952.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s The Small Bather (1826) and Pierre Bonnard’s Nude in an Interior (c. 1935) provided such a point of departure for one of my recent tours of special exhibition Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard. As I did visitors on my tour, I invite you to consider the relationship between these two artworks, and ask yourself the following set of questions:

What do you see in each work of art?
What is the subject?
How would you describe the style of each painting?

Next, consider additional question:

What are some similarities and differences in both the style and subject of these two artworks?

And finally, ask yourself:

How might the invention of the camera inspire some of the differences between the two artworks?

I encourage you to share your observations in the comment section below.  You can read some responses I received on my tour after the jump. Continue reading “Congenial Spirits: Nudes 100 Years Apart” »

What’s your name again?: The Love Story of Pierre and “Marthe” Bonnard

Walking through the Phillips’s new Snapshot exhibition, a viewer encounters hundreds of personal photographs by  seven artists. In some cases, these photos are exploratory studies for future paintings and prints. Most of the time, however, they simply document the artist’s everyday life. What’s striking about the photographs on display is not only how much they extol the artists’ aesthetic sensibilities, but how much they  reveal about their private lives. These artists photographed their true loves, whether the streets of Amsterdam, nieces and nephews playing in the backyard of a country manor, or, in many cases, the women in their lives.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this is the first in a series of three love stories, featuring artists in the exhibition—Pierre Bonnard, Henri Evenepoel, and Edouard Vuillard—and the ladies they loved.

Bonnard, Marthe in Montval, standing by a chair, 1900-01. Modern print from original negative; 1 1/2 x 2 1/8 in. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of the children of Charles Terrasse, 1992.

Legend has it that a 26-year-old Pierre Bonnard met 16-year-old Marthe de Méligny when he helped her cross a Paris street in 1893. Marthe had just moved to Paris after leaving her hometown of Saint-Amand-Montrond, a small town south of Bourges, and was working in a shop making artificial flowers for funerals. As the story goes, they fell in love and dedicated their lives to one another until her death in 1942. Happily ever after, right? Continue reading “What’s your name again?: The Love Story of Pierre and “Marthe” Bonnard” »