Playing with Light in the Dark

Vesela Sretenović, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, installed dramatically lit sculpture in a darkly painted intimate gallery to play with light, dark, and shadow on the third floor of the house. Our collection of sculpture doesn’t get seen as often as other works and to have an entire room dedicated to these choice pieces is a treat.

Photos: Joshua Navarro

Left: (behind) Auguste Rodin, Female Torso, Kneeling, Twisting Nude, not dated/cast 1984, Bronze overall: 23 3/4 x 12 5/8 x 13 3/4 in; Gift of Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 2009. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Dog, 1914, Bronze 6 x 14 x 3 in. Gift of H.S. Ede, 1965. Center: Alexander Archipenko, Arabian, between 1930 and 1940, terra cotta 24 in. In Memory of Ellen Dupont Wheelright, 1992. Right: Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Richard Guino, Mother and Child, 1916, Bronze 21 1/2 x 8 x 8 1/2 in. Acquired 1940. All: The Phillips Collection, Washington DC. Photos: Joshua Navarro

Photos: Joshua Navarro

Left: (far left) Hans (Jean) Arp, Tête Heaume II (Helmeted Head II), 1959, Bronze overall: 22 in. Gift of John and Joy Safer, 2003. (left center) Moore, Henry, Family Group, 1946, Bronze 17 1/2 x 13 x 8 5/8 in. Acquired 1947. Center: View of gallery. Right: Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1950, Bronze 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 5 1/4 in. Acquired 1972. All: The Phillips Collection, Washington DC. Photos: Joshua Navarro

Lunar New Year: Year of the Horse Day 14

Pierre Bonnard, Circus Rider, 1894, Oil on cardboard on wood panel

Pierre Bonnard, Circus Rider, 1894. Oil on cardboard on wood panel, 10 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. Acquired 1947. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

Pierre Bonnard’s oil painting, Circus Rider (1894), immediately called out to me when I sat down to write a little something to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Horse. It was up in one of the galleries I was often stationed in when I first started at The Phillips Collection as a Museum Assistant. It was one of about six works by Bonnard that were up in the same room, and even though it was smallest in terms of pure size, it stood out to me as the giant in the room.  The power of the horse charging through the painting, the rider balancing carefully on his back, and the quick brush strokes that perfectly conveyed the speed with which they moved struck me in a way the other works did not. I am not the only one who has been struck by Circus Rider. Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies, found this painting particularly compelling when she visited The Phillips Collection.

I also felt a special connection to this work because of the vaulting lessons I took at summer camp when I was around nine years old. Vaulting, usually described as gymnastics on horseback, is incredibly difficult. Most of us didn’t get much further than being able to stand up on a moving horse; though we were whizzes at the dismount (gravity certainly makes one easier than the other). Every time I look at this painting it reminds me of the nervous exhilaration I felt as I learned to stand up on that horse’s back, and how much more courage this fearless rider must have had. Courage is a quality all artists must share. Whether your art is performing on horseback or working with oil paints you must dare to put a part of yourself out there and hope to make a connection with your audience.

Kaitlin McClure, Membership Services