Susan Behrends Frank
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
with Azienda Speciale Palaexpo
Impressionist and Modern. Masterworks from The Phillips Collection presents sixty-two paintings from America’s first museum of modern art. A treasured Washington, D.C. institution opened to the public in 1921, The Phillips Collection was conceived by its founder, Duncan Phillips, as “an intimate museum combined with an experiment station” in the nation’s capital where the art of one’s time would be exhibited in the company of well-known masterpieces. The Phillips Collection is recognized around the world today for its premiere collection of modern and contemporary art. As it approaches its centenary, the Phillips has organized a landmark traveling exhibition from its rich holdings to be presented for the first time in the Italian capital.
This oustanding exhibition of European and American painting is arranged chronologically, its macro-sections reflecting all of the major cultural trends that crossed the 19th and the 20th centuries up to World War II. The exhibition begins with the works of the major early 19th century artists who revolutionised European painting, from Goya and Ingres to Delacroix, Courbet and Manet, in close dialogue with the great French impressionist masters as Van Gogh Cézanne, Degas, Monet and Sisley. Central to the exhibition are modern masters who have shaped the artistic vision of the 20th century, including Bonnard, Braque, Gris, Kandinsky, Kokoschka, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Soutine, and Vuillard, along with the Americans Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe. Seminal works from the postwar period in the mid-20th century by American and European artists such as de Staël, Diebenkorn, Gottlieb, Guston, and Rothko, create an entirely new and robust experience for the visitor.
The Phillips Collection is substantially different from other institutions that were established between the wars in the last century as its founder was interested in the connections between works of art of the past and the present. Willing to support young artists of diverse aesthetic temperament, Phillips acquired works based on their merits, not because they illustrated schools of thoughts, were faddish, or were by famous names. As Phillips wrote in 1954 for a new generation: “Centuries and nationalities are mixed in our Gallery so that old and modern paintings can be brought together to be relevant and significant in some new context, some new contrast or analogy.”
Impressionist and Modern. Masterworks from The Phillips Collection not only brings together the work of modernism’s greatest masters, but demonstrates “that art is a universal language” meant to be shared and enjoyed by audiences everywhere.