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Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection
Marjorie Phillips (1894-1985), The Big Pear, 1955, oil on canvas, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection is much more than flowers and fruit; The Dayton Art Institute's upcoming exhibition is a vibrant interpretation of common objects by modern masters Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Georgia O'Keeffe and many other prominent 20th century European and American artists. This beautiful exhibition of 74 paintings, organized by and drawn from the renowned Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., will be on view at the Art Institute to March 21, 1999. The works in this exhibition reflect more than a half-century of changing attitudes toward style and subject, offering a rich blend of visual interpretations of the items that fill our lives.
"This colorful exhibition breaks down the stereotypical image of a still-life and demonstrates how they can be as varied and interesting the artist's imagination," said Senior Curator Dominique H. Vasseur. "Still-lifes remind us that beauty and intellectual pleasures surround us always. Perhaps more importantly, the ordinary becomes special and worthy of attention and appreciation. In this way, still-lifes connect us with the world in a new and different way, showing us meaning and enjoyment in things that might have gone unnoticed." Left: Walter Kuhn (1877-1949), Bread and Knife, 1934, oil on canvas, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
The exhibition brings together modern American and European still-lifes that were purchased by Duncan and Marjorie Phillips during a period of more than 40 years. Museum visitors will see how the 19th-century tradition of still-life painting has evolved from realistic depictions to varying degrees of abstraction in the 20th century through the work of artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Rufino Tamayo, Man Ray, Walt Kuhn and Walter Sickert. Also represented in the exhibition is a broad spectrum of still-life paintings created in the Cubist idiom, including works by Picasso and Braque, plus John Graham, Stuart Davis and Karl Knaths. By mid-century, the Modernist style had taken root and can be seen in a wide range of work by important artists such as Georges Rouault, Milton Avery, Morris Graves, Ben Shahn, Giorgio Morandi and Ben Nicholson. In addition to these styles, the influences of Expressionism, Abstraction, Impressionism, Intimism and Post-Impressionism are seen throughout the exhibition. Many of the artists represented, such as Niles Spencer, Joseph Solman, Marsden Hartley, Avery and O'Keeffe, can also be found in the Art Institute's Permanent Collection, creating another dimension to this exhibition. Right: Ben Shahn (1898-1969), Still Music, 1938, oil on canvas, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection is also fascinating as a chronicle of the collecting tastes of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips who early in their lives showed a preference for romantic and representational work, such as Auguste Renoir's well-loved The Luncheon of the Boating Party. As the Phillipses came to admire Modernism and appreciate Abstraction, their interests broadened, as did the scope of their acquisitions. As early as 1931, Duncan Phillips wrote, "Often I wonder what I will think of my decisions of today 10 years from now. I can only live and think and act accordingly to the degree of sound judgment and aesthetic sensitiveness given to me from day to day."
Over time, the Phillipses embraced a wide range of styles and approaches to 20th century art, from purely representational to almost abstract examples. This exhibition illustrates the evolution of their collecting philosophy as traditional subject matter is portrayed by revolutionary, cutting-edge artists of the time. In still-life painting, Duncan Phillips looked especially to artists whose work shared an independent spirit and a 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." Phillips also favored works that were lyrical and poetic, focusing more on emotional expression than on purely intellectual content.
Still-Life Paintings from The Phillips Collection will be on view in the Art Institute's Special Exhibition Wing through March 21. Admission is $6 for adults; $4 for seniors (60+), groups (10+) and students 12 and older; free for youth under 12 and museum members. A 120-page exhibition catalogue is available at The Museum Store. After The Dayton Art Institute, the exhibition will travel to the Japan Association of Art Museums, the final venue of its international tour.
As the Miami Valley's only fine art museum, The Dayton Art Institute offers a full range of programming in addition to daily exhibition of its Permanent Collection. The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day and Thursdays until 9 p.m. Free parking is available at the museum and the facility is fully accessible to physically challenged visitors. The Museum Store is open during museum hours and the Art Reference Library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Thursdays until 8 p.m. General admission is free. Some special exhibitions and events carry an admission fee.
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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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