The Phillips Collection: Home of Amazing Works by Modern Masters
Duncan Phillips began displaying his collected art in his family’s Dupont Circle home in 1921, even while the family still resided there. The original 1897 Georgian Revival house still makes up part of the museum on the corner of 21st and Q Streets, although the Phillips family moved out in 1930 to accommodate the ever-growing gallery. In 1960 Duncan Phillips added what is now known as the Goh Annex—named after a Japanese businessman who funded its renovation—directly adjacent to the house. The third and final building that makes up the Phillips Collection is a former apartment building, the Sant Building, which was added in 2006 as part of a major expansion that also added 30,000 subterranean feet.
Housed within the collection are works by modern masters, such as Cézanne, Degas, O’Keefe, Renoir, Rothko, and van Gogh. The museum continues to add contemporary artists. Special exhibits are also frequent, although there is a $2 increase on the weekend admission while exhibits are running. That same $12 adult fee is charged to visit any exhibit on weekdays as well, although seeing only the permanent collection still remains an option for non-weekend visitors.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the size and scope of the major museums, the Phillips Collection might be perfect for you. Likewise, if you are a lover of Impressionist and modern art, the Phillips Collection might be perfect for you too.
Must-See Highlights of The Phillips Museum
Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire
Cézanne painted the landscape featured in this piece more than 30 times. This version is one of his earlier works, which still features curving lines and a sense of realism. In his later years, Cézanne began to depict everything—including Mont Sainte-Victoire and the surrounding French countryside—in terms of their base geometric shape, bridging the gap between Impressionism and Cubism. Some of what was to come from Cézanne can be seen in this painting, specifically in the farmland and its blocky buildings.
The Repentant St. Peter—versions by El Greco and Francisco Goya
The Phillips Collection boasts not one, but two paintings titled The Repentant St. Peter, both done by master painters. The far older version is by Domenikos Theotocopoulos—simply known as El Greco for obvious reasons—painted in the early 17th century. El Greco was a Renaissance artist known for elongated figures and harsh light, and his portrait of St. Peter is no different. The thin apostle looks pleadingly skyward toward a bright light, while seemingly on the verge of tears. Like most of El Greco’s works, The Repentant St. Peter is full of emotion, yet distant due to the strong use of color and Byzantine style.
Contrasting the El Greco with the Francisco Goya version is striking. Goya is an artist without a category, known mostly for painting rebellious, unforgiving images depicting the corrupt side of humanity. He painted this rare religious subject sometime around 1824, and his St. Peter is portly and strikingly solitary.
Unlike El Greco’s, this St. Peter is bathed in soft light, and while he still pleads with the heavens, there is depth in his face—a face that is rugged and worn—suggesting complex emotions.
Vincent van Gogh’s Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles
Painted in 1888, the thick, haphazard brush strokes seen so often in van Gogh’s works are evident here, especially in the sky. While no doubt a tranquil scene, the dynamic style of the surrounded walkway and shadowy visitors hint at the feelings within van Gogh’s troubled mind. This is not one of van Gogh’s best works, but the mastery of place, emotion, and dynamism shows just how talented the Dutchman was.
Ready to visit our Nation’s Capital? Check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. by Eve Zibart, Renee Sklarew, and Len Testa.
The Phillips Museum building: AgnosticPreachersKid at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cézanne’s Mont Saint-Victoire: By Paul Cézanne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Goya’s The Repentant St. Peter: Francisco Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
El Greco’s The Repentant St. Peter: El Greco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Renoir’s The Luncheon of the Boating Party: Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
van Gogh’s Entrance to the Public Park in Arles: Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe