One of the biggest and best of any show I can recall at the Phillips is on display through August 31 which presents 125 artists, 120 years (1850-1970) and 200+ paintings that have just returned "home" from a four year "world tour" seen by 300,000 people.
Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), the founder of the Phillips Collection, personally knew many of the artists whose pieces he selected for inclusion in his museum, many "on the verge" before their creations were recognized as the masterpieces they have become and which now hang on three floors in Made in the U.S.A.
Mr. Phillips insisted that his showcase, "America's first museum of modern art," become "a champion for America's own artists," and from its opening in 1921, its reputation and collection have grown to fulfill his dream, demonstrated by this stunning display.
Mixed in with the names of familiar artists in the array are lesser knowns, too: Doris Lee, Marjorie Acker Phillips, David Hare, and Morris Louis join Rockwell Kent, Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast, Georgia O'Keeffe, Max Weber, George Inness, Robert Henri, Grandma Moses, Anne Goldthwaite, Robert Motherwell, and Sam Gilliam, to name some whose works hang in the show in chronological order according to 12 themes.
It's the biggest presentation the Phillips has mounted in almost 40 years, well worth a visit(s) long before it closes. You know how treacherous these big shows can be at the end, with everyone elbowing, pushing and blocking views. (And please call for rescue should you want to stand back and have a look.)
You may want to go on a day or evening of a related event. (Please read below.*)
The exhibition has so much to see and think about, from jazz, to portraits, oblique, abstract, modern, realism, and maybe you are a romantic?
Seeing the art may make you smarter, too.
An article in last week's Wall Street Journal proves what many of us already know: "Our Brains Are Made for Enjoying Art." The story describes research conducted by the University of Toronto which documents brain activity and the benefits humans obtain from viewing art. So, in addition to practical enjoyment from viewing the paintings, you may be able to stave off Alzheimer's disease. Which might be considered a brain stretch, but, why not? Just another reason to go and take pleasure.
An interactive program, "uCurate," is included in the show (and can be activated from your home by accessing the Phillips' website) which permits guests to design their own art galleries using three touch screens and pieces from the presentation.
I can't wait to get back to set my brain aglow all over again. There, I think I have well said enough. It is, indeed, difficult to contain my enthusiasm.
A catalogue of almost 300 pages is available for purchase in the shop and online. Major sponsors are Altria and the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.
*Related tours, talks, performances, and musical events include:
Sold out: June 26, 5:30 p.m. reception, 6:30 p.m. performance of the New York Idea by the Picnic Theatre Company (Fee. Reservations required.)
June 26, 6 and 7 p.m. "Spotlight Tours" of the exhibition. Included in exhibition admission price.
June 29, 11 a.m. Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, Wikimedia, D.C. Bring your laptop and become a writer about the show's artists for Wikipedia! Free but registration is required.
Every Sunday at noon a tour of the exhibition with a docent (Included in the exhibition admission price.)
July 3, 5 - 8:30 p.m. Phillips After 5, "Happy Birthday America" with music by Charlie Sayles, Tony Fazio, and the Blues Disciples, gallery talks and make your own postcard art activities. Reservations highly recommended except for members who are always admitted without charge. (Fee for others.)
July 10, 6:30 p.m. Isadora Duncan Dance by the Word Dance Theatre (Fee. Reservations required.)
July 24, 6:30 p.m. Lecture by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, professor of modern art at the University of Virginia, "Reinventing Space: Calder, Davis, and Graham." (Included in the exhibition admission price. Free for members.)
July 31, 6:30 p.m. Vocal Colors: A Musical Exploration of Visual Art with soprano Melinda Whittington and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule of the Wolf Trap Opera Company presented in collaboration with the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (Fee. Reservations required.)
August 7, 5 - 8:30 p.m. Phillips After 5. American Bounty. Gallery talks and sample classic American cuisine "through a moveable feast of food trucks." (? Call for more information and to make highly recommended reservations, 202-387-2151. Fee except for members, no charge.)
August 14, 6:30 p.m. Lecture by Sally Pemberton about her grandfather, Murdock Pemberton (1888 - 1982), the first art critic for the New Yorker who said Mr. Murdock "may be the most interesting person you've never heard of." He wrote often about the development of American modernism, and Ms. Pemberton has written a book about him, Portrait of Murdock Pemberton.
August 14, 21, and 28, 6 and 7 p.m. "Spotlight Tours" of the exhibition. Included in exhibition admission price.
What: Made in the U.S.A.: American Masters from the Phillips Collection, 1850 - 1970
When: Now through August 31, 2014. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. with extended hours on Thursdays until 8:30 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Closed on July 4.
Where: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St., N.W. at Q St., Washington, D.C. 20009
Tickets: $12, $10 for students and those over 62, free for members and for children 18 and under.
Metro Station: Dupont Circle (Q Street exit. Turn left and walk one block.)
For more information: 202-387-2151