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To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection

February 3 - May 6, 2012


To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, which opened February 3, 2012, features more than 100 works by 75 important artists, including outstanding paintings by Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan, Edward Hopper, Arthur Dove, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Stuart Davis, Jacob Lawrence, Adolf Gottlieb and Robert Motherwell. The exhibition will remain on view through May 6, 2012. (right: Eakins, Thomas, Miss Amelia Van Buren, circa 1891, Oil on canvas, 45 x 32 inches; 114.3 x 81.28 cm. Acquired 1927. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC)

The paintings in the exhibition range in date from 1845-1965 and represent a magnificent survey of American painters and their work. The exhibition begins with great heroes of nineteenth-century American art, including Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins whose works set the course for modern art in the U.S. The exhibition concludes with works by the Abstract Expressionists whose efforts to create a new visual language in the 1940s caused the art world to turn its attention from Paris to New York and made American art a significant global force.

"Nashville first experienced The Phillips Collection in 2004, with From El Greco to Picasso: European Masterworks from The Phillips Collection, which has been one of the Frist Center's most popular exhibitions," said Frist Center Executive Director Susan H. Edwards, Ph.D., "and it is no wonder. The Phillips Collection is one of the nation's museum jewels. Duncan Phillips was a collector without peer in his time and still has much to teach us about how to appreciate, enjoy and collect art.

"This is the first time The Phillips Collection has organized a comprehensive selection of its American treasures for exhibition outside the museum. The show has been an international sensation in Roverto, Italy; Madrid, Spain and Tokyo, Japan. Nashville is the first of only two U.S. venues to host the show before it returns to Washington, D.C. To be able to bring such magnificent art to the Southeast is a joy for us," she concluded.

The paintings are arranged in 10 thematic groups: Romanticism and Realism (with works by Edward Hicks, George Inness, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Albert Pinkham Ryder); Impressionism (Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, John Henry Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, Maurice Prendergast); Forces in Nature (Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, John Marin, Harold Weston); Nature and Abstraction (Arthur Dove, Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe, Kent, Marin, Max Weber); Modern Life (Robert Henri, George Luks, Walt Kuhn, Edward Hopper, Guy Pène du Bois); The City (John Sloan, John Marin, Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Edward Hopper,); Memory and Identity (Grandma Moses, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Rufino Tamayo); Legacy of Cubism (John Marin, Karl Knaths, Stuart Davis, John Graham, Ilya Bolotowsky); Transition to Abstract Expressionism (Morris Graves, Jackson Pollock, Milton Avery, Alexander Calder); and Abstract Expressionism (Adolf Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston).

The public programs supporting To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection celebrate American art forms from the late nineteenth through the twentieth century and include lectures, gallery talks, music, art-making workshops, presentations of poetry and readings of the play Red, a work about the life and career of artist Mark Rothko.

This exhibition was organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.


(above: Prendergast, Maurice, Ponte della Paglia, 1898-99, reworked 1922, Oil on canvas, 27 7/8 x 23 1/8 inches; 70.8025 x 58.7375 cm. Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC)


Duncan Phillips and The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection, America's first museum of modern art, was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1921, nearly a decade before the Museum of Modern Art (est. in 1929) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (est. 1930) opened in New York. From its inception, The Phillips Collection championed the very best in American art and artists. Its in-depth holdings of American paintings are broad in scope, yet cannot be characterized as either encyclopedic or strictly historical. Rather, The Phillips Collection is a reflection of the tastes and friendships of collector Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) who purchased many of the works from the artists while they were still actively exhibiting. Many of the artists became Phillips' good friends.

A well-regarded art critic in addition to being a collector and museum director, Phillips believed we benefit by giving ourselves over to the direct experience of the work of art. In this way one enters the artist's world, learning to see as artists see. In his extensive critical writings, Phillips made it clear that he sought "artists of creative originality and of sincere independence."



Many of the artists in this exhibition were influenced by and captured in their work some of the biggest changes transforming society during their lifetimes: the rise of industry and new modes of transportation, the growth and electrification of cities and the invention of everyday objects.

Throughout this exhibition, specific paintings will be connected to inventions and innovations that changed the world. These include: the Erie Canal (Arthur B. Davies, Along the Erie Canal, 1890); the electric light bulb (John Sloan, Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912); tube paint (Theodore Robinson: Giverny, ca. 1889) and acrylic paint (Helen Frankenthaler, Canyon, 1965); skyscrapers (Edward Bruce, Power, ca. 1933); the egg beater and electric fan (Stuart Davis, Egg Beater, No., 4, 1928) and mobiles (Alexander Calder, Red Polygons, ca. 1950).


Exhibition Catalog

A new publication featuring highlights of The Phillips Collection's holdings -- and most of the works in this exhibition -- is available for purchase in the Frist Center's gift shop. Entitled Master Paintings from The Phillips Collection, it includes essays by Eliza Rathbone and Susan Behrends Frank and texts on more than 100 pictures from the Collection.


Audio Tour

The exhibition is accompanied by an audio tour which brings the "voice" of collector Duncan Phillips into the exhibition. The 35 stops let visitors hear how he described selected paintings, why he collected them and what he loved about them.


To go to:

Wall panel texts from the exhibition, please click here
Selected gallery guide text, please click here
Information on programs related to the exhibition, please click here

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