The Sacrifice of Kronos

Theodoros Stamos, The Sacrifice of Kronos, No. 2, 1948, Oil on hardboard, 48 x 36 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1949 © Estate of Theodoros Stamos, New York

Sacrifice of Kronos, No. 2 by Theodoros Stamos, along with his Sacrifice of Kronos and Saga of Ancient Alphabets (all on view in Ten Americans), allude to the interconnected realms of nature, myth, and ancient culture that figure prominently in Stamos’s art. Based on a Greek myth, Sacrifice of Kronos is inspired by the dramatic story of Kronos, king of the Titans, who consumes his children to prevent the fulfillment of a prophesy that one of them will grow up to usurp his throne. When his wife wraps a stone in clothing to fool Kronos into thinking it was their newborn son Zeus, Titan consumes the stone. Rather than showing the eventual fate of Titan dethroned by Zeus, Stamos evokes the moment of sacrifice with the presence of a fetal-like form trapped under the weight of the massive boulder. While more commanding in scale than works by Klee, Stamos’s painting, with its metaphorical allusions to broader themes of birth, death, power, and sacrifice, are reminiscent of Klee’s quest to uncover universal aspects of human experience.

This work is on view in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee through May 6, 2018.

Tuesday Tunes: A Playlist for William Baziotes

Taking inspiration from the major theme of music in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee, we paired 11 staff members with 11 works from the exhibition and asked them to create a playlist in response to their individual artwork. Liza Strelka, Manager of Exhibitions, created her playlist in response to William Baziotes’s “Pierrot.”

William Baziotes, Pierrot, 1947, Oil on canvas, 42 1/8 x 36 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1984 © Estate of William Baziotes

“The clown is a romantic and classical image. The artist doesn’t want to reveal his feelings directly so he presents himself in disguise. His clothes and gestures are gay and beautiful, his face is sad.”

Pierrot illustrates William Baziotes’s belief that the traditional motif of the clown embodies similar experiences and struggles of the artist. The Pierrot is a playful yet tragic figure whose makeup-covered exterior entertains while the heart and soul of the person underneath searches for his place within society. Visual artists of the early to mid-20th century, such as Baziotes, Klee, Picasso, and Rouault, found the motif of the Pierrot rich artistic exploration.

The influence of the Pierrot wasn’t just contained to visual art. I first chose David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes, not only because the staccato rhythm of the song evokes the teetering of the figure’s oblong head and the jumbled limb movements but also because the famous music video for the song features Bowie as a Pierrot. From there, I selected songs that echo the painting’s cool color palette and melancholic, searching subject matter by artists who also play with persona and/or mood, whether in their performance or their songwriting. Across all musical genres, there are artists grappling with their place in the world and falling victim to heartbreak, and yet they continue to perform and entertain us.

Liza Strelka, Manager of Exhibitions

Feeling inspired? Create your own playlist based around works in the exhibition and send it to us at communications@phillipscollection.org and we may feature it on our blog and social media.

The Supreme Doodler

Robert Motherwell, Concept of Woman, 1946. Crayon and watercolor on paper, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Louis and Susan Stamberg, 2014

“One of my natural talents that I don’t use enough in painting is line and paint both. I guess the closest example, though he does miniatures compared to what I do, is Paul Klee.”—Robert Motherwell

obert Motherwell had extensive contact with Paul Klee’s art, both in reproductions in books he owned, as well as in the “hundreds of Klees” he saw in exhibitions in New York. Professing his admiration for Klee as a “supreme doodler,” Motherwell equated doodling to automatic drawing, a method he was first introduced to by Surrealist Roberto Matta in 1941. “I think doodling is strictly one of the alternative ways of drawing. So far as I know, every Paul Klee, after his maturity, invariably began with doodling.”

In his witty Concept of Woman, Motherwell exploits his talent as a doodler in both line and color. Doodling was, however, only the first step in a dynamically evolving process Motherwell called “the automatic and formal beauty that is the end result of an emerging process.” In Concept of Woman, Motherwell begins the composition with freely drawn lines and circular forms that eventually achieve a structural rhythm evocative of a female figure. The “real content” of painting, Motherwell argued, was an expression of a person’s mysterious and elusive qualities, perhaps an aspect that underlies this work’s evocative title.

This work is on view in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee through May 6, 2018.