Illustrating its unconventional approach to displaying art, The Phillips Collection
will present loosely themed groupings of some of its own masterworks with 25 masterpieces from Oberlin Colleges Allen Memorial Art Museum. Half of the 24 paintings and one sculpture on loan from the Allen are old masters, dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries. They include rare works by painters of the British, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish schools. The other Allen pieces are important modern works of the 19th and 20th centuries. Oberlin extended the opportunity to display some of its treasures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to the Phillips while the Allen is closed for renovations. Side by Side: Oberlins Masterworks at the Phillips, opens September 11, 2010, and runs through January 16, 2011.
Side by Side highlights defining features of The Phillips Collection: displays that combine works of different periods, nationalities, and styles, and constant rearrangement of the collection to reveal new affinities between works of art. This approach started with its founder, Duncan Phillips (18661966), who viewed the history of art as a continuing series of conversations between artists and works.
Duncan Phillips was interested in showing modern arts historical roots, says Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski. That is why he bought an El Greco, a Goya, and a Giorgione. Early on, he hoped to have examples of work by several other old masters, including Rubens, who is represented in this selection from Oberlin. Having these truly wonderful works from Oberlin is a special opportunity to expand the context of our own collection and modern art in general.
The Allens Rubens, The Finding of Erichthonius (163233), illustrating a story from Ovids Metamorphoses, will be shown with the Phillipss radiant and enchanting Luncheon of the Boating Party (188081), Pierre-Auguste Renoirs great impressionist summary of modern life. Renoir is known to have copied works by Peter Paul Rubens, and in the second half of his career, when Renoir turned away from impressionism, he again looked to Rubens for inspiration. Other works in this part of the exhibition are by artists in The Phillips Collection who frequented the Louvre and copied works of art in it, including Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, and Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix.
Other highlights among the old masters in Side by Side include one of the most important examples of northern baroque painting in the United States, Hendrick ter Bruggens Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene (1625); The Fountain of Life, a superb 16th-century painting probably painted in Spain after a work by Jan van Eyck; and Joseph Wright of Derbys night scene Dovedale by Moonlight (c. 178485). Oberlins modern holdings include works by Alberto Giacometti, Barnett Newman, Pablo Picasso, and Mark Rothko.
Landscape is a strong suit at the Phillips, and many works on loan from the Allen play to this strength. Several, like Wrights, show the world at night: Giuseppe Cesaris The Agony in the Garden (Christ on the Mount of Olives) (159798) and Pier Francesco Molas Mercury Putting Argus to Sleep (164555). Christs angelic vision illuminates Cesaris painting, but in the paintings by Mola and Wright, the light source is the moon. These nocturnal scenes find numerous echoes in The Phillips Collection, where silvery moonlight gleams in paintings such as Arthur Doves Me and the Moon (1937) and George Innesss Moonlight, Tarpon Springs (1892).
Joseph Mallord William Turners shimmering View of Venice: The Ducal Palace, Dogana and Part of San Giorgio (1841) is one of the outstanding landscape offerings from Oberlin. Like his rival John Constable, represented in The Phillips Collection by On the River Stour (183437), Turner had a powerful effect on modern landscape painting. Claude Monet, an artist who was profoundly influenced by him, is represented in the Allens works by Garden of the Princess, Louvre (1867). Painted from a window at the Louvre, with a high vantage point, and a distinctive vertical format, the painting is one of the artists first views of the city. In a spatially complex composition, looking across an empty expanse of garden, the artist shows a bustling, tree-lined embankment of the Seine, a slice of river, and a cityscape beyond. The painting represents a much earlier stage in Monets development than The Road to Vétheuil (1879) and Val-Saint-Nicholas, near Dieppe (Morning) (1897), owned by the Phillips.
Among other modern landscapes on view in Side by Side, Paul Cézannes Viaduct at LEstaque (1882) from the Allen adds another dimension to the rich imagery of the south of France, represented at the Phillips by strong holdings of landscapes by Pierre Bonnard, Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh, among others.
A display of portraits will include one of the most dramatic works in the exhibition, the Allens Self-Portrait as a Soldier (1915), by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Kirchner painted himself in the uniform of his artillery regiment, his eyes vacant and without pupils, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and his right hand horrifyingly amputated. Painted when Kirchner was recuperating from illness and unfit for active duty, this searing portrait expresses the artists terror in the face of war. The Phillipss uncompromising Cézanne self-portrait of 187880 will hang nearby as will Oberlins Michiel Sweertss Self-Portrait (1656).
Historic New York school works from the Allen will hang immediately outside the Rothko Room: Mark Rothkos The Syrian Bull, Adolph Gottliebs The Rape of Persephone, and Barnett Newmans Onement IV. In 1943, The Syrian Bull and The Rape of Persephone were exhibited at the Third Annual Exhibition of Modern Painters and Sculptors. In response, Edward Alden Jewell from the New York Times used these paintings to criticize the incomprehensibility of recent modern art. Within five days, Gottlieb, Rothko, and Newman wrote a challenge to Jewell that in turn set the aesthetic and cultural themes for the New York school.