Fireplaces of the Phillips

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It wasn’t until our third visit to Washington, D.C., that we made it to the Phillips Collection, a gem largely overshadowed by the city’s larger Smithsonian museums. This time, though, “America’s first modern art museum” was a mere five-minute walk from our Dupont Circle apartment, making it an easy place to spend an afternoon.

Seeing the collection reminded me that modern art doesn’t always mean contemporary. The term modern actually covers a period extending over one hundred years and is broad enough to include such giants as van Gogh and Monet.

Interestingly, though, when museum founder Duncan Phillips acquired much of the art that now hangs in his former 1897 Georgian Revival home it was only a few years old at the time. Renoir, for example, painted his now world-famous Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1919. Phillips added it to his collection just four years later in 1923, meaning that for him it was not only modern but totally contemporary too.

Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party

Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Painted 1919. Acquired by Duncan Phillips in 1923.

Originally, Phillips displayed his collection of masterworks in a single room in the family home. Eventually the collection grew so large that the family moved to a new house and turned their entire former residence into an art museum.

Despite two later additions, the cozy and distinctive charm of the original mansion remains. So much so that we imagined ourselves conversing with the Phillips while sipping sherry and admiring the Picasso, or the Monet, or the Cezanne, or whatever great work adorned whichever of the many fireplaces still found throughout their humble abode.

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3 Comments on “Fireplaces of the Phillips”

  1. Christina March 3, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Great collection of fireplace pictures and very perceptive to notice this! I like the Monet over the fireplace the best which is incidentally just next to Luncheon of the Boating Party.


  2. wineandhistory March 4, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    What a neat museum! Thank you for sharing – I would love to visit this one.


  3. transplantedtatar March 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    I love the Phillips and don’t go there nearly as often enough as I should, living so close by!


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