DUNCAN PHILLIPS (1886–1966)
Duncan Phillips was an art collector and philanthropist based in Washington, D.C., who in 1921 opened THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION, America’s first museum of modern art in the United States. From the outset, the vision for the museum was “an intimate museum combined with an experiment station.” As a collector, Phillips was noted for his willingness to deviate from the art museum standard of displaying works together based on shared nationality and geography, interpreting modernism as a dialogue between past and present. He collected the work of his contemporaries at a time when art that did not follow traditional, academic standards was not widely accepted as aesthetically and culturally valuable. This philosophy of taking risks allowed for Phillips to be the first to collect and exhibit artists who were not well known at the time, such as Milton Avery, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Arthur Dove, Louis Eilshemius, Morris Graves, Jacob Lawrence, Grandma Moses, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Rufino Tamayo.
This selection of the art writings of DUNCAN PHILLIPS, the early twentieth-century art critic, collector, and patron, is the first gathering of these texts into a publication devoted exclusively to this essential side of the man who founded The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. In late 1918, Phillips took a leap of faith when he conceived a unique private art museum in the nation’s capital at the end of World War I as a setting for a dialogue between the art of the past and the present with an emphasis on defining what is modern from a distinctively personal perspective. Phillips’s extensive writings were the primary instruments through which he expressed and shared his views alongside the artworks he regularly acquired and exhibited in curated installations that were regularly renewed in fresh rearrangements.
Edited and annotated by KLAUS OTTMANN, the Phillips's Chief Curator Emeritus and expertly introduced by Phillips Curator SUSAN BEHRENDS FRANK, this book is not a comprehensive assembly of Phillips’s art writings but a representative compendium of his views over the course of his lifetime. The selection includes examples from his early efforts while a student at Yale University (class of 1908) to his thoughts in 1964, two years before his death, on the artist Mark Rothko (1903–70), whose work is inextricably linked to the Phillips Collection through the Rothko Room, the first such dedicated space (est. 1960) for the artist’s work in a museum.
WRITINGS ON ART
Edited and annotated by KLAUS OTTMANN
with an introduction by SUSAN BEHRENDS FRANK
Paperback original, 440 pages, $25
Kindle edition, $9.99
Published by THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION in association with SPRING PUBLICATIONS
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