Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando, FL




Twentieth-Century Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection


The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) is proud to present Twentieth-Century Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection which will be on display March 11, 2000 through May 21, 2000.

This nationally touring exhibition of Twentieth-century still-life paintings from America's first museum of modern art, approximately 70 paintings by 47 artists, brings together modem American and European still-lifes that were purchased by Duncan and Marjorie Phillips over a period of more than 40 years. The exhibition will include many works that have rarely been seen by the public, featuring the works of renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso and Man Ray among others.

The works in Twentieth-Century Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection reflect more than a half-century of changing attitudes toward style and subject, offering a rich mélange of visual interpretations of objects that that fill our lives.

Duncan Phillips (1886-1996), an heir to the Jones and Laughlin steel fortune, established himself not only as a collector, but as one of the primary interpreters of modernism in the United States. After graduating from Yale University in 1908, Duncan Phillips and his older brother James traveled to Asia and Europe visiting museums and galleries and formed a small collection of contemporary American paintings. In 1918, following the recent deaths of his father and brother, Duncan Phillips conceived the idea of founding a museum in their honor. Two years later, he organized an exhibition of his collection at the Century Club in New York. There he met Majorie Acker, whom he later married in late 1921. That same year, Phillips opened his home to the public, establishing the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery. His mission was not to establish an encyclopedic collection, but rather to bring together works that moved him. The museum continued to grow over the Phillips' lifetime, and has maintained its place as the first museum of modern art in our country.

In the early years of their collecting, Duncan and Marjorie Phillips showed a preference for romantic and representational examples of still life. As they came to admire Modernism and appreciate abstraction, their aesthetic sensitivities broadened, as did the scope of their acquisitions. Eventually, the 20th Century still-lifes in the Collection encompassed a wide range of styles and approaches, from purely representational to abstract.

In still-life paintings, Duncan Phillips looked especially to artists whose work shared an independent spirit and rich palette. He referred to color as "the direct instrument of painting" and believed that it should not be merely applied but "identical with form." He also favored works that were lyrical and poetic, focusing more on emotional expression than on purely intellectual content.

Visitors to this exhibition will see how the 19th Century tradition evolved into 20th Century still-life paintings by such artists as Man Ray (Emanuel Rudnitsky), Pierre Bonnard, Rufino Tamayo, Walt Kuhn and Walter Sickert. Also represented is a broad spectrum of Cubist still-life paintings, including works by Pablo Picasso, Stuart Davis, Karl Knaths and John Graham. By mid-century, the modernist vocabulary had taken root and can be seen in a wide range of still-lifes by artists such as Georges Rouault, Milton Avery, Morris Graves, Ben Shahn , Giorgio Morandi and Ben Nicholson. (left: Milton Avery, Gladiolas, 1940, oil on canvas, 26 x 34 inches, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., acquired 1940)

Please also see our article Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection (3/99)

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Read more about the Orlando Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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