The Phillips Collection in D.C.

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:36



As readers are likely aware, Washington is a fascinating city, filled with a huge variety of things to see and do, including the varied museums of the great Smithsonian Institution.  However, there are also a large number of very significant attractions that are frequently omitted from a standard tour itinerary simply because there is inadequate time to include everything. 

In the scores of times that I have been to our nation’s capital since my first visit back in 1966, I have been fortunate to be able to explore many of these gems that may not immediately come to mind when planning a group’s itinerary. One is The Phillips Collection, just a short walk from centrally-located Dupont Circle, and which bills itself as “America’s First Museum of Modern Art.” What a fine place it was to spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon during my most recent trip to D.C.!      

Similarly, any artistic or educationally oriented visitors to the city are sure to enjoy The Phillips Collection. First, this is a human-sized venue, housed in the boyhood home of the founder with two connected buildings and the adjacent Carriage House, so it does not require nearly the time nor the stamina to discover the riches within, as is the case with some of Washington’s popular but sprawling museums. When it was opened in 1921 by Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune, the entire collection of 237 paintings was displayed in just one room. Today, the complex holds a growing, world-class collection of nearly 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art, hosts internationally-acclaimed temporary exhibitions, and offers a wide variety of programs for adults and students. An extensive Sunday chamber concert series is also presented in the intimate setting of the Music Room, located in the original 1897 Phillips House.    

The collection itself features 19th, 20th and 21st-century European and American Art. It is noted particularly for important works by such impressionists as Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Degas, as well as others by Picasso, Bonnard, Braque and Klee. Such Americans artists as Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Arthur Dove, John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe are represented, as well as photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz and Brett Weston. On display until early May, the featured (and fascinating) temporary exhibit I explored was Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard.



Antique grandfather clock and staircase



Paintings from The Migration Series (1940-41) by Jacob Lawrence

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