William Merritt Chase: Hide and Seek

William Merritt Chase, Hide and Seek, 1888. Oil on canvas, 27 5/8 x 35 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1923.

Hide and Seek is one of my favorite paintings in The Phillips Collection. Notable for its restraint, it is a marvel of visual economy. Hide and Seek was not a typical work for Chase, who was known for his tendency to paint cluttered interiors. His studio was filled with curios from all corners of the world, including a white Russian wolfhound, two macaws, and a cockatoo. There are only four objects in Hide and Seek, and Chase makes each one count Continue reading “William Merritt Chase: Hide and Seek” »

Phillips Petting Zoo: Pierre Bonnard

Installation view of two works by Pierre Bonnard in the Snapshot exhibition, both in the permanent collection at The Phillips Collection. At left is Dogs, 1893. Lithograph on Paper, 15 x 11 in. At right is Woman with Dog, 1922. Oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 15 3/8 in. Photo: Joshua Navarro

When I entered Snapshot, the pairing of Bonnard’s painting Woman with Dog (above right) with his lithograph Dogs (above left) delighted me. By my count, the exhibition features five works in which Bonnard includes canines, and I love how each picture captures dogs doing what dogs do—begging, cuddling, running, playing, etc.

Look more closely at Dogs. Did you notice how the fluffy dog in the mid-ground is sniffing the rear of the pup he’s next to? Behind them, Bonnard includes three pooches in play bows as they get acquainted before galloping off. Do you see the black smears throughout the composition? Funny how they resemble paw prints, as though the pups ran across the surface of the composition. Continue reading “Phillips Petting Zoo: Pierre Bonnard” »

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” »