William Merritt Chase, Hide and Seek, 1888. Oil on canvas, 27 5/8 x 35 7/8 in. Acquired 1923. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
After working at the Phillips Collection for 4 years, many of the artworks have become familiar friends. Hide and Seek, a painting by American artist William Merritt Chase, is definitely one such painting. When I initially looked at this work, I couldn’t help but imagine a story about two girls, sisters, playing hide in seek in their grand old house somewhere in New England. The girl in the lower left, the older sister, is peering out behind the wall to get a glimpse of where her younger sister is about to hide. I hear the quiet footsteps as the younger sister carefully finds a place, the giggle of the older sister laughing at her deception, and the clanging of pots and pans in the adjacent kitchen (not pictured) as the mother prepares dinner for the girls.
I see Hide and Seek so frequently that I forgot that my story about the artwork was just that–a story, made up from my imagination and not the actual intention of the artist. I recently included Hide and Seek on a tour and asked two related questions: “What is going on in this artwork? What is the story?” These simple questions lead to flurry of ideas and even more questions from the visitors as they created stories of their own–who are the girls? How do they know each other? Which girl is hiding and which girl is seeking? How many others are playing and are hiding out of our view? Are we, as the viewers, part of the game? I was pleased to hear so many interpretations of the work, especially ones that challenged my assumptions of who the girls are and how the game is being played. Next time you visit the Phillips, keep the question “what is the story?” in your mind, you just might make a few new friends.
Ellen Stedtefeld, Gallery Educator
(Left) The Phillips Collection’s #BestArtRemake submission (Right) @pipercolleen’s #BestArtTwin submission
The Phillips Collection made a splash at this year’s #Artlympics, taking home the gold in the #BestArtRemake category with a re-enactment of William Merritt Chase’s Hide and Seek. Former Museum Assistant and Marketing Intern Piper Grosswendt also staged an award-winning #BestArtTwin submission with the Phillips’s Woman in Profile by Chaim Soutine. As the Artlympics put it on Instagram, “she blue-steeled her way to gold with this photo.” Wondering why there’s a blue goblin-esque creature in the pictures? That’s Artie the Artlympian, official mascot of the Artlympics, presenting the winners with the gold. Congratulations to all participants and winners! We invite you to challenge our title in the 2014 Artlympics.
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.
When asked to channel our inner third graders, museum educators can get very creative—and silly. Here are four poems that four education staff members wrote after looking closely at William Merritt Chase’s Hide and Seek(1888).
Dark curtain/Shiny floor/Blue chair/White light/I win.
Meagan Estep, Teacher Programs Coordinator
I am hiding/I will not make a sound/So that I won’t be found!
Natalie Mann, School, Outreach, and Family Programs Coordinator
I’m looking for my sister/She’s looking for Mister/Neither my sister or Mister/Is anywhere to be found.
Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs
My name is Sarah/I am a cheater/I am watching my sister/Instead of counting./When I grow up/No one will like me/Because I am a cheater/Cheaters never win.
Margaret Collerd, Public Programs and In-gallery Interpretation Coordinator