Dupont Nature Walk with Pierre Bonnard and Carrie Vaughn

Programs Assistant Erich Brubaker on Pierre Bonnard’s connection to nature and the upcoming nature walk with Carrie Vaughn, Farm Director of THEARC Building Bridges Across the River.

“He admires the eternal beauty and the astonishing harmony of life in the capital cities, a harmony so providentially maintained in the tumult of human liberty. He gazes at the landscapes of the great city, landscapes of stone, now swathed in the mist, now struck in full face by the sun.” Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life” (1863)

In 1918, Pierre Bonnard paints the work The Terrace, also known in French as “Le Jardin Sauvage” (the Savage Garden).

Pierre Bonnard, The Terrace, 1918, Oil on canvas, 62 3/4 x 98 1/4 in., The Phillips Collection Acquired 1935; © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

In 2024, Carrie Vaughn watches a bug crawl across her desk.

The common thread: an appreciation for the unadulterated and commonplace beauty of the world around us, especially the allure of untamed nature in all its forms.

“The natural world is everywhere—it’s in us and all around us. Sometimes experiencing nature can be as simple as watching an insect walk across your desk or taking a deep breath after a rainstorm to smell the new perfume in the air,” says Vaughn. She currently serves as the Farm Director of THEARC Building Bridges Across the River, which began in 2010 to increase healthy food access, educational resources, and workforce development opportunities to residents of East of the Anacostia River, and now features 22 raised beds, an 18-tree orchard, a season-extending hoop house, three community compost bins, four in-ground rows, medicinal and culinary herb gardens, and a bee hive.

Carrie Vaughn planting garlic at THEARC Farm (Courtesy of Carrie Vaughn)

Like Carrie Vaughn, Pierre Bonnard spent much of his time outdoors, and wrote in his journal in 1932: “Show nature when it’s beautiful. Everything has its moment of beauty.” He was known to take long walks in nature, absorbing the scenery, pondering his paintings, and making brief sketches before going home to dream up his compositions from memory.

“I love the way Bonnard’s paintings capture the movement, the wild colors, the contrasts that connect outdoors with indoors,” continues Vaughn. “He is not admiring the manicured garden—he salutes the explosion of blooms, the arc of a branch, the patterns, folds and shadows. Every moment in the garden gives me a new experience—a new insect humming or a leaf to taste or even the shock of defeat when plants die or pests invade. It’s primal and beautiful, and it’s everywhere.” This explosion of nature is evident again and again in Bonnard’s Worlds and in our own city.

THEARC Farm

In celebration of Vaughn and Bonnard’s shared love for the savage beauty of nature, the Bonnard Salon will be conducting a Nature Walk of Dupont Circle on Friday, May 24 from 12-1 pm. This special program will have us step out from the gardens painted by Pierre Bonnard and into the neighborhood around the museum, admiring the gardens planted by our neighbors. Together we will channel Bonnard’s eye for color and wild beauty as we learn to spot the joy of unmanicured gardens. Learn more and register (very few spots remaining!) at https://www.phillipscollection.org/event/2024-05-24-bonnard-salon.

In addition to showing just how impactful Pierre Bonnard has been to generations of artists and nature lovers, this program also highlights some of the exciting fruits of The Phillips Collection’s partnership with Building Bridges Across the River, the founding organization of THEARC, where the Phillips has a satellite campus. To learn more about THEARC Farm, visit their website, and check out their calendar of events for opportunities to garden and grow East of the River.

The Art of the Journal: Pierre Bonnard and Jenni Bick

Public Programming Intern Erich Brubaker on Bonnard Salon workshop host Jenni Bick and Bonnard’s relationship with journaling.

Local business owner Jenni Bick definitely has one thing in common with French painter Pierre Bonnard: they both love a good journal.

“I am captivated by notebooks of all kinds,” Jenni says. “To me they are a blank slate for us to record and reflect on ourselves and our experiences. The blank pages of a notebook are there to gather and contain our inner world – the ideas, images, data points, and notes that make up the story of our lives.” Jenni started making custom journals in 1991, and has been running her own store, Jenni Bick Journals, just down Connecticut Avenue from the Phillips, since 2017. In her store, you will find every journal and notebook is carefully chosen and crafted to help you fulfill your potential. While she imports gorgeous books from places like Japan and Italy, she also crafts journals entirely by hand, sewing and binding books together from start to finish.

Left to right: Founder Jenni Bick and her husband, Robby. Sewing pages of a handmade journal. Photos courtesy of jennibick.com

It is easy to imagine that Pierre Bonnard might have loved Jenni’s shop and agreed with her views of notebooks. In his lifetime, he filled various journals, sketchbooks, and diaries with the story of his life and his creative process, documenting daily weather conditions, musings about art, and sketches of people and things he encountered in his frequent walks: the inner and outer world that Jenni is also interested in, and the theme of the exhibition Bonnard’s Worlds.

Entries from Pierre Bonnard’s Journals, 1931. From an exhibition catalog for The Phillips Collection and Dallas Museum of Art, published by Thames and Hudson in 1984

Inspired by Bonnard’s intensive note-taking practice, Jenni Bick led a workshop on April 26 in the Phillips’s Art Workshop for a hands-on introduction to basic bookbinding techniques. Participants made their own small blank book for notetaking or sketching to take out into the world to write their own story and capture the world around them.

Jenni Bick leading the Bonnard’s Journals Workshop in the Phillips’s Art Workshop

This inspiring workshop was a part of the Bonnard Salon, a space that details Bonnard’s history with the Phillips and also hosts weekly talks and workshops for participants to engage with the themes of Bonnard’s Worlds. Join us for the May 24 Bonnard Salon workshop that entails a nature walk around the Dupont neighborhood with Carrie Vaughn, and the May 31 workshop about wildflower arrangement with Karen Massalley.

And, learn more about Jenni Bick Journals at https://www.jennibick.com/pages/about-us. Be sure to visit her just down the street from the Phillips on Connecticut Avenue NW, and pick up your next beautiful journal to capture your untapped potential.

Meet Our Spring 2024 Interns

Meet our spring 2024 interns, who have just finished up their internships at the Phillips. Read about what they worked on over this past semester. Thank you, Anissa, Erich, Megan, and Natalia!

Spring 2024 interns

Anissa Santos, The George Washington University

Anissa Santos is a graduating second-year MA student in The George Washington University’s Museum Studies program. With a concentration in Exhibitions and Visitor Experiences, she has extensive training in research and curatorial writing and experience in museum evaluation, programming, DEAI implementation, and content creation. As a first-generation, Latina graduate student, she believes strongly in the importance of establishing Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion practices in the museum field and establishing relationships and trust with local and cultural communities. As the Spring DEAI Intern at The Phillips Collection, mentored by Shelby Bergstresser and Dr. Yuma Tomes, she has conducted research on neurodivergent resources and experiences in museums in order to develop and pilot TPC’s new sensory bags (now available at the Information Desk). She is very excited and hopeful about the future of accessibility and inclusion for current and future TPC visitors. After graduation, she will be returning to her hometown, Los Angeles, CA, and hopes to work at any museum in education, public programming, curatorial research, or DEAI. If you would like to connect with her, please send an email or LinkedIn message her way!

Erich Brubaker, Northern Virginia Community College

Erich Brubaker (they/he), served as the Public Programming Intern, mentored by Head of Public programs Ashley Whitfield, supporting public events and community engagement projects, including Curator Talks, Third Thursdays, Creative Seedlings, and the Bonnard Salons. Their main projects included devising adult craft activities for Phillips after 5 in March and April, supporting administrative function and event execution in the Public Programming department, writing blog posts related to the Bonnard Salon programs, and arranging a community partnership with a local organization dedicated to the sustainable reuse of leftover crafting supplies. Erich is about to finish an Associate Degree in Art History at Northern Virginia Community College. They already hold a Certificate in Historic Preservation, and plan to pursue a Bachelor’s in Art History in 2025. They currently spend a lot of their free time visiting museums (over 100 globally since moving to the DC area in 2017), watching TV or Studio Ghibli movies, eating good food, drinking tea, and snuggling with their cat Kumo.

Megan Sommerfield, The George Washington University

“Like Duncan Phillips, I’m from Pittsburgh, so I learned at a young age about his family and the incredible art museum they built. Then, I attended Purdue University, where I quickly fell in love with art history. As the Collections Intern for Purdue Galleries, I solidified my interest in museum work as a professional career. When I began my masters in museum studies at George Washington University, The Phillips Collection was the first place I sought out jobs. I have now had the honor to work here as the Library and Archive Intern, mentored by Juli Folk and Amanda Acosta, which allowed me to find my true passion in the museum field, archival work. Archives are home to some of our most precious treasures and information, and I want to play an active role in preserving them for generations to come.”

Natalia Georges, The George Washington University

“Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and of Lebanese descent, I am currently a first-year graduate student at George Washington University, specializing in Marketing. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Suffolk University, and I have had the privilege of being  mentored by Renee Littleton as the Marketing and Communications Intern. During my internship, my main objectives were to deepen my understanding of art movements and to enhance my marketing skills within the cultural sector. Throughout my internship, I engaged in several key initiatives, including: data analysis and strategic insights (compiling and analyzing daily and weekly sales reports); content development for an upcoming social media interview series; curate the museum’s Fodor’s Travel “30 Best Museums in Washington” feature; press relations and branding (developing press kits for Bonnard’s Worlds and participate in the press preview); community and partnership engagement (initiated outreach to restaurant partners to analyze discount utilization, organizing activities tailored to seniors from Iona Senior Services); French institutions outreach (led a successful email campaign targeting over ten French cultural and educational entities to promote Bonnard’s Worlds); marketing strategy development for the upcoming Multiplicity exhibition. I joined the Phillips with the goal of learning about art history, curatorial practices, and to refine my digital marketing skills. I am proud to say that I have not only met these goals but also contributed meaningfully to projects that have expanded my expertise and fueled my passion for integrating marketing with the arts.”