DC Explorer: The Phillips Collection

The Boating Party by Renoir – Phillips Collection in DC

If you regularly follow American Nomad, you may remember a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh as we toured a touring exhibition of ‘A Modern Vision – European Masterworks from The Phillips Collection.’ This special exhibit showcases the marvelous works of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas, Dufy and more from the renowned Phillips Collection in DC. To read about the special exhibit click here.

Being able to see the masterworks from The Phillips Collection on tour in Raleigh sparked my creative impulse to make a pilgrimmage to the Phillips Museum during our visit to DC to explore the additional wonders of their permanent collection.

Ironically during our visit, many of the household artists like Van Gogh and Degas’ works were in my hometown at the NCMA (through January 2023), but this gave us an opportunity to take a deeper look at other famed and lesser known modern artists, as well as the chance to see one of my favorite works of art in person – Renoir’s The Boating Party.

Quick Tips:

  • Off the beaten path, but worth the excursion – The Phillips Collection is located near DuPont Circle in an historic neighborhood with timeless architecture and character
  • Tickets can be purchased via their website

Background:

Located in the historic DuPont Circle neighbored of D.C. in the former home of art collector Duncan and his wife Marjorie Acker Phillips, The Phillips Collection opened in 1921 as America’s first museum dedicated to modern art. It is housed in two connected buildings, including the intricately detailed 1897 Georgian-syle home of The Phillips and the newer gallery additions.

Stepping on the beautiful hardwoods in the grand home and admiring the ornate ceilings, each work of art is perfectly placed for to highlight the unique beauty and mysterious of each work of art.

Bonnard
Prendergast

The Phillips’ wanted to showcase the bridge between pre-modernist painters, including El Greco, whose expressionist style was a precursor to modern movement to cutting edge modern paintings and sculpture.

The collection includes thousands of works by artists including, but not limited to…

De Nittis Exhibit:

With many pieces from the permanent collection on loan for the NCMA exhibit, The Phillips Collection had the gallery space to host a first of it’s kind exhibit on famed Italian Impressionist and Salon Painter, Giuseppe de Nettis. Organized in collaboration with the Pinacoteca Giuseppe De Nettis, the City of Barletta, Italy and Puglia Region (Italy) this is first exhibition in the US devoted to the work of Giuseppe De Nittis. For interactive tour – click here.

De Nittis

Although not well known outside of Italy, De Nittis is a central figure in the artistic changes and innovations in 1870s Paris. His urban scenes of Paris are known for their unique arrangements and plein air subjects with a detailed realism that depicts a sophisticated and economically booming city.

The exbihit details De Nittis place in the Parisian Salons and his mix of pastoral Italian and French scenes to bustling Impressionistic fluid paintings of life in motion. Prior to this exhibit I was not aware of De Nittis and he is now one of my favorite painters. I loved his use of light and felt as though he captured the breath and heartbeat of each scene as though I were right there.

The exhibit details De Nittis work and friendship with masters like Degas and Manet. Degas sketches and paintings of horse races are hung along similar pieces by De Nittis. Learning about the community and interconnected art world of Paris struck me. Degas is an artist who spanned traditional to the Impressionism style (though Degas did not like the term Impressionism). I loved learning about the friendship and artistic journeys of these amazing artists.

Degas

The Crown Jewel of The Phillips is Renoir’s Luncheon of The Boating Party…This painting is included in dozens of art history textbooks. This painting is fluid, active and feels as though you have stepped into the conversation of a bright afternoon enjoying a drink with friends. Renoir perfectly captures the energy of lively conversations, the pensive thoughts of a girl staring into the scene, the lady with her dog…Words cannot describe the ‘wow’ of this painting – it shouts with triumph and draws the viewer in.

Degas
Matisse

Destination Coffee: Phillips Collection Lost Sock Coffee

The Phillips Collection has a wonderful coffee shop and cafe right on site. The Lost Sock Coffee Cafe features delicious locally roasted coffee blends and specialty lattes that would fill the cup of Degas to Van Gogh. I spoke with the barista, who mentioned their beans are roasted in house at their other DC location. The cafe serves light sandwich fare and pastries.

I tried their seasonal maple latte – the perfect treat after a morning exploring one of DC’s best museums.

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