The outstanding Phillips Collection, currently on display at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, presents 65 influential works by American artists that explore the history of modern art in America, from the birth of the modernist spirit in the late 19th century through post-war American painting in the mid-20th century. It is a must-see exhibition for adults and children that provides a lesson in American art history while allowing visitors to see the original work of artists who best represented that history.
Upon entering the exhibit hall, visitors will feel a certain openness that encourages those not as familiar with international quality museum exhibitions to feel welcome and take their time exploring the amazing world that awaits them.
The exhibition is arranged into a series of thematic groups rather than a simple chronology, with wall-mounted references located throughout.
It begins with works by Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer. They were both realists, with Eakins more focused on portraits and Homer on landscapes depicting man’s universal struggle against nature. Moving on, the next section features American impressionists Childe Hassam and John Henry Twachtman. They adopted the spirit, but not the letter, of French impressionism. From there, visitors will see works of Edward Hopper and Charles Sheeler, whose paintings represent the industrialization of American life.
The next sections highlighted modernist abstractions of Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe, considered the mother of American modernism.
The tour culminates with the inventive works of the post-war decades when artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler and Philip Guston, made our country the center of the art world.
This entire exhibition is from the collection of Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), a published art critic, who started collecting paintings along with his mother. . The Phillips Memorial Gallery began as a tribute to his father and brother who both died suddenly within a year of each other.
He began collecting modernist paintings at a time when most American saw it as a break with the past, not a bridge to the future. In 1921, Phillips married a painter, Marjorie Acker. With her assistance and advice, he envisioned creating a “museum of modern art and its sources.” Being the son and grandson of highly successful Pittsburgh businessmen, Phillips had the means to fulfill his vision.
When Duncan Phillips died in 1966, Marjorie succeeded him as museum director. Their son, Laughlin, became director in 1972. He led The Phillips Collection through a multi-year program to ensure the physical and financial security of the collection, renovate and enlarge the museum buildings, expand and professionalize the staff, conduct research on the collection, and make the Phillips more accessible to the public.
The works in the exhibition will draw rewarding parallels with the VB Museum of Art’s own collection, particularly American Modernism between the world wars and Abstract Expressionism of the post-war period. Also, a wide array of humanities programs at the museum will continue to explore key themes and figures featured in the show.
Museum hours are Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
From Homer to Hopper: American Art from the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, will be exhibited through May 13, 2020. For more information, call the Museum at 772-231-6990 or visit the website at https://www.vbmuseum.org/.