Happy Birthday Duncan Phillips

Works by Milton Avery, Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, and Karl Knaths

Clockwise from top left: Milton Avery, Black Sea, 1959. Oil on canvas, 50 x 67 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Robert Motherwell, In White and Yellow Ochre, 1961. Oil, charcoal, ink, tempera and paper collage on paper, 40 7/8 x 27 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965. Alexander Calder, Only, Only Bird, 1951. Tin cans and wire, 11 x 17 x 39 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1966. Karl Knaths, The Blue Heron at the Tide Wash, 1956. Oil on canvas; 24 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1965.

I had the pleasure of speaking last night to Alice Phillips Swistel, great-niece of Duncan Phillips who was born today in 1886. It’s not surprising that the conversation came around to her memories of him. Though I’ve worked here for over five years and handled many of Phillips’s belongings–his journals, book collection, letters–I always welcome more insight. Above are images of five works Phillips purchased in the last months of his life. I think the selection is telling, featuring his devoted friendship and support of artists (Knaths), and his appreciation for complexity (Motherwell). These works display many of the hallmarks of Phillips as a collector: his patronage and loyalty, the joy of discovering, a passion for seeking the new.

Musicians Paint the Music Room with Sound: Vocal Colors Part II

Lee Gatch, City at Evening, 1933. Oil on canvas, 18 x 25 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired in 1943.

Talented vocalists and other musicians from Wolf Trap return to The Phillips Collection this Thursday at 6:30 pm for the second concert in the Vocal Colors: A Musical Exploration of Visual Art series. Pianist Stephanie Rhodes guest blogs about her experience interpreting artwork through music.

I see in black and white, but I hear color.  As a pianist, I have 88 keys and printed black notation staring off a glaring white page. My job (how did I get so lucky?) is to take that straightforward world and transform it into a colorful realm of sound, all with the aim of sweeping up the listener in the process of creation, typically with the help of a talented singer.

Here’s the thing:  aural orientation doesn’t really lend itself to visual art. I’ve spent time in some of the greatest art museums in the world, with an audio tour guide in tow and a strong desire to experience the masterpieces before me.  Often though, the type of connection and impression I so value in my musical being eludes me.

Preparing our Vocal Colors recital for The Phillips Collection, that has not been the case. Continue reading