The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection has contributed approximately 3,150 images to the Artstor Digital Library featuring a comprehensive selection of works from their holdings of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art.
In 1921, the museum opened to showcase the collection of Duncan Phillips (1886–1966) in his residence near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. It was the first museum of modern art in the United States. Phillips built his collection on the premise that artists are influenced by their predecessors, purchasing works by El Greco and Jean-Simeon Chardin as foreshadowings of later Expressionist and modernist painting. From these foundations, Phillips would acquire works by European masters such as Pierre Bonnard (the largest collection in the United States), Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edouard Vuillard. Renoir’s masterpiece, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880–1881), is the museum’s best-known work. Phillips also collected American artists, including Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Jacob Lawrence (half of the 60 panels for the Migration Series), Maurice Prendergast, Mark Rothko, Albert Ryder, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, among others. Further, Phillips supported emerging painters like Milton Avery, Arthur Dove (acquiring the largest collection of his works), John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Over the course of 50 years, Phillips and his wife Marjorie would build a collection of more than 2,000 works.
Since Phillips’ death in 1966, the museum has continued to add to its permanent collection, which now comprises more than 4,000 works by international artists and photographers. The Phillips Collection has an active acquisitions program (especially contemporary art) and organizes acclaimed exhibitions. The museum also produces award-winning education programs. Its Center for the Study of Modern Art explores new ways of thinking about art and the nature of creativity.
To accommodate its growing collections and programs, the museum has expanded well beyond its original building. Despite the additions, the museum has preserved the scale of Phillips’ historic residence and continues to offer visitors a meaningful encounter with its storied and dynamic collection—an “intimate museum combined with an experiment station,” to quote its founder.
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