Spotlight on The Uprising: Revolution then and now

Honoré Daumier, The Uprising, between 1848 and 1879. Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1925

Honoré Daumier, The Uprising, 1848 or later. Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1925

Given the current political uprisings in Egypt, this week’s Spotlight Talk on Honoré Daumier’s The Uprising (1848 or later) seemed eerily contemporary. The talk, led by Paul Ruther, Manager of Teacher Programs, focused on the timelessness of the work’s subject matter, what Duncan Phillips described as a “symbol of pent up human indignation.”

Paul began by asking members of the group what themes and images they saw in the painting. The desire for change and revolution immediately came to mind, with several participants comparing the imagery presented in the work to that of the current revolutions in Egypt and the Middle East. The painting is thought to portray the 1848 revolution in France and subsequent overthrow of King Louis-Philippe. In the painting, there is a crowd of people all dressed in similarly colored clothing except for one man, the central figure, who, dressed in white, has a raised fist. The crowd is flanked by tall buildings, creating a city-like setting, with only a slight glimpse of sky and sunlight visible at the top right corner of the painting. Paul noted the feeling of claustrophobia present in the painting, which results from Daumier’s use of light and color—while there is apparent sunlight in the painting, the crowd is darkly colored with little to no light being shed on them, helping create this tight, closed-in feeling. Paul explained how Daumier uses the harsh diagonal line of the raised fist that seems almost to try to reach the light above. I noticed how the only person touched by light is the man with the raised fist, and perhaps he is the symbolic representation of social change that the light conveys.

Many art historians during Daumier’s time considered this work “unfinished,” because of the lack of dark coloring at the base of the image. One tour attendee brought up the idea that perhaps Daumier created an impressionist-style painting years before his time!

And, because it is always nice to end with a Phillips connection tidbit, this work was not publicly displayed until Duncan Phillips purchased it in 1925. Phillips referred to it as the “greatest painting in the Collection.”

Hannah Hoffmann, Marketing Intern

Entering the #MuseumOlympics

Inspired by #MuseumOlympics taking over our Twitter feed, we took a look at our permanent collection to see which works the Phillips could contribute. It came down to three categories: the athletes, the judges, and the audience.


Images of works from the collection that represent athletes

Images clockwise from top left: Honoré Daumier, The Uprising (L’Emeute), 1848 or later. Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. Acquired 1925. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Aaron Siskind, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #169, 1954. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. Gift of Fern M. Schad. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Gifford Beal, Center Ring, 1922, Oil on canvas, 22 x 26 1/8 in. Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Walt Kuhn, Girl with Mirror, 1928. Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 1/8 in. Acquired 1929. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.


Images of works from the collection representing judges

Images left to right: Chaim Soutine, Woman in Profile, c. 1937. Oil on canvas, 18 13/8 x 10 7/8 in. Acquired 1943. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; George Luks, Otis Skinner as Col. Philippe Bridau, 1919. Oil on canvas, 52 x 44 in. Acquired 1919. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Paul Klee, The Witch with the Comb, 1922. Lithograph, 14 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. Gift of B. J. and Carol Cutler, 2006. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.


Images of works from the collection representing audience members

Images left to right: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Melancholy, late 1860’s. Oil on canvas, 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. Acquired 1941. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; David Bates, The Gulf of Mexico, 1990. Oil on canvas, 72 x 52 in. Partial and Promised Gift of Patti and Jerry Sowalsky, 2006. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Did we miss anything? Tell us what works you would submit!

In Case of Emergency . . . Part II

Honoré Daumier, Two Sculptors, 1870-1873. Oil on wood panel, 10 1/2 x 14 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1925.

Read part one of this post here.

Duncan Phillips appeared to feel tremendous relief and gratitude in his letter of December 30, 1941, to the director, Paul Gardner, of the then William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery, as he announced the forty paintings from his collection that would seek refuge at the Midwestern museum as Washington, D.C., waited out World War II in post-Pearl Harbor anxiety. He also referenced another “almost equally large number of good pictures” being sent to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for the same purpose of safekeeping. By January 3, 1942, Phillips received a letter from Gardner, announcing that the first group of paintings, which had been shipped in batches, had arrived already to great excitement, especially regarding Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. On its first day on view, January 25, 1942, that painting was written up in the Kansas City Star with the poignant headline, “When France was Free.”

Come October 16, 1942, however, Phillips was reassessing the impact of his decision to harbor his beloved collection so far out of reach. In a letter that day, again to Paul Gardner, he states that the gallery has been “very sadly crippled” by the loans of such works as Cézanne’s Self-Portrait, Manet’s Spanish Ballet, Chardin’s A Bowl of Plums, and El Greco’s The Repentant St. Peter.

I know now we really over-did our precautions in stripping ourselves of quite so many of our 19th century masters. In the case of two of them, Daumier and Cézanne, our loss is deplorable and I am finally compelled to write and ask you to return to us the “Two Sculptors” by Daumier and the Still Life by Cézanne . . . I still feel that the risk of air raids in Washington continues to be a very real one but the National Gallery and other institutions here are exhibiting great pictures and a certain amount of risk for property as well as human life is inevitable in war time.

Gardner easily agreed to return the two works and accepted Phillips’s offer to replace them with loans of a Paul Klee and Augustus Vincent Tack.