Masterpieces from the iconic Phillips Collection displayed in Barcelona for the first time

Picasso, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Courbet and other outstanding names within the Impressionist and Modern Art movement are amongst the prestigious art collection assembled by American collector Duncan Phillips. Now, for the first time, some of their masterpieces will be displayed in Barcelona. ‘Conversations: Impressionist and Modern Masterworks from The Phillips Collection’, which includes around sixty referential works from the 19th century, will be shown at the CaixaForum museum until the 19th of June.

A girl admires three expressionist paintings from the Phillips Collection, now being shown at the CaixaForum (by Pau Cortina, ACN)
A girl admires three expressionist paintings from the Phillips Collection, now being shown at the CaixaForum (by Pau Cortina, ACN) / ACN


March 11, 2016 03:37 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The prestigious art collection assembled by American collector Duncan Phillips reaches Barcelona for the first time with an exhibition at CaixaForum. ‘Conversations: Masterpieces of impressionism and modern art from the Phillips Collection’ includes around sixty referential works from artists such as Picasso, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Courbet, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque, Pollock, O´Keeffe and Rothko. The collection will be shown at CaixaForum until the 19th of June as a testament to the evolution of painting, starting in the 19th century. It was in fact this moment in art that so captivated Phillips and to which he dedicated himself. 

Duncan Phillips, who lived in Washington D.C. until his death in 1966, was a pioneer of his time in the world of private modern art collections. In 1921, the American writer and art collector founded the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery with his mother to commemorate his recently deceased brother and father. The gallery would later become the Phillips Collection, which retains the art collector´s original 1926 mission statement: to be an "intimate museum combined with an experiment station”.

This is the first time the majority of the paintings in ´Conversations´ have been shown in Barcelona, although some of the individual pieces have made appearances in various museums throughout the city. In fact, with the exception of Picasso’s ‘The Blue Room’ and Delacroix’s ‘Horses Coming Out of the Sea’ the rest of the paintings are new to Catalonia. Among these are the masterpieces ‘Self Portrait’ by Paul Cézanne, ‘The Valpinçon Bather’ by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, ‘Interior with Egyptian Curtain’ by Henri Matisse, ‘Autumn II’ by Wassily Kandinsky and ‘Dancers at the Barre’ by Edgar Degas. The impressive collection, which is composed of 60 oil paintings by 44 American and European artists, will also feature ‘Elena Povolozky’ by Modigliani, ‘The Road to Vetheuil’ by Money and ‘Untitled’ by Rothko.

Susan Behrends Frank, curator of the collection, said that Phillips didn’t want a “historical” collection, but rather one centred on the artists, with pieces that “had something unique to say but all had unifying, universal characteristics”. “It was his firm belief that art could change, that art was a universal langue that went beyond countries, cultures, and time” affirmed Behrends Frank. “He saw art like something that speaks to us directly but which also serves as an opportunity to escape, as a way to free our imagination”.

The ‘Conversations’ exhibition, which celebrates the 95th anniversary of the Phillips Collection, crystallizes its founders gaze. According to Behrends Frank, the exhibition offers a journey through 175 years of the history of painting, not through a linear timeline but rather one through the concepts and techniques that the collector saw in artists from the end of the 19th century to the beginnings of the 20th. These artists, who were little understood during Phillips´ own life, are now seen as masters.

The ‘Conversations’ exhibition is divided into six themes: Classicism, Romanticism and Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Paris and Cubism, Intimacy and modern art, Nature and Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism. While some sort of chronological order is inevitable, the main goal of the exhibition is instead to tell a story about different ways of understanding and creating modern art. Rarely is one given the opportunity to witness iconic art movements of the last 200 years as embodied by each movement´s most influential artists. The exhibition is “the result of a fifty-year voyage and a gift for us all” explained curator Behrends Frank. This portion of the Phillips collection is being shown around the world; previous to being in Barcelona it was on display in Korea and in Italy.