Blue Star Renoir

Following up to our series honoring the Blue Star Museums initiative, here is a Renoir-inspired submission to Blue Star Museums’s Creativity Contest, which military kids ages 6 to 17 can still enter through September 20. The artist, eight-year-old Marika Skwarek, shares her inspiration below.

Blue Star Renoir by Marika Swarek, Age 8. Part of Blue Star Museums' Creativity Contest

In August, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I enjoyed the impressionist art the best. One of the paintings I really liked was Portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand (1875) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I brought my sketch pad along and tried to sketch it. I finished my sketch and added the Blue Star to the necklace. Here it is. I call it the “Blue Star Renoir.” We also visited the Please Touch Museum. We joked that the art museum was the “Please Don’t Touch Museum,” but we had a great time at both.

I am eight years old, just like the girl in the picture.

-Marika Skwarek (age 8), Blue Star Museums participant

Museums and the National Spirit: A Solider Named Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn, Girl with Plant, 1960. Oil on canvas, 80 x 69 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1961 The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. © The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

This post is the fourth and final in a series in honor of Blue Star Museums Initiative. See the previous installments here: part one, two, three.

In 1951, Duncan Phillips received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Kenyon College. According to Marjorie Phillips’s book, Duncan Phillips and his Collection, the movement to recognize Phillips in this way began with a handful of Kenyon professors who had spent off-duty time at The Phillips Collection during the war and found it a place of respite. Phillips had intentionally increased the number of lectures and concerts, as well as loan exhibitions, during war time with the sole purpose of providing as much as possible to museum-goers, especially servicemen, who he felt were in a time of spiritual need.

One soldier in particular was deeply influenced by his wartime visits. Richard Diebenkorn was stationed at Quantico during World War II, working as part of the photographic unit. On weekends, Diebenkorn and his wife, who moved around the country with him to his various posts, would regularly come into D.C. to visit the museums. In an oral history interview with Susan Larsen, Diebenkorn describes the Phillips as home-like with couches for sitting and rugs on the floor. He recalls feeling that the museum was extending a spirit of hospitality to visiting servicemen. In another interview with Fritz Jellinghouse, Diebenkorn  calls the museum, “. . . a refuge, a kind of sanctuary for me, and I just absorbed everything on those walls [ . . . ] I absorbed something else, and that has to do with the incredible generosity that was there to take home with you.”

A favorite of Diebenkorn’s at that time was Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint-Michel (1916). It is easy to see the influence the painting had on the career of this visiting soldier.

Museums and the National Spirit: “The Arts in War Time”

This painting held special meaning for Duncan Phillips who recognized in it a passionate spirit for freedom. Honoré Daumier, The Uprising (L'Emeute), 1848 or later. Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1925.

This post is the third in a series in honor of Blue Star Museums Initiative. See the previous installments here: part one and two.

On May 19, 1942, months after the United States entered World War II, Duncan Phillips gave a powerful talk –“The Arts in War Time”– to a meeting of the American Association of Museums gathered in Williamsburg, Virgina. Here, he made a clear case for the importance of art for a world in conflict:

Art can serve the cause of victory. It can do a very considerable part in total mobilization. Those of us who create works of art and those of us who, in Galleries, protect, exhibit and interpret them in their significant relations, can dedicate ourselves and our special knowledge and skills to the morale both of the fighting forces and of the home front. After we have done all we can in our Museums to safeguard our treasures from fires and explosions, there should remain on view a succession of instructive, inspiring, timely and pleasurable exhibitions with special welcome for soldiers, sailors and tired war workers from the offices.

The artists of America are enlisting for the Army and Navy, some are in training for camouflage, contributing their paintings for camp chapels and recreation rooms, for war relief or to aid in Civilian Defense. In camps they are being encouraged and provided with materials to carry on their crafts. Many of them have been reporting factually and with authority, on our war industries, on the tremendous task of converting our country into Democracy’s mightiest arsenal.

The full text of the speech can be found in the Phillips Collection Archives where  Duncan Phillips’s existing published and unpublished writings reside.