The Phillips Collection opened its doors this past weekend to celebrate the return of "Luncheon of the Boating Party" after being on tour for the past four years. So I took advantage of being able to enjoy the return of Renoir, the Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit and the permanent collection.
While Renoir is well known and "Luncheon" was majestic in its colors and composition, the exhibit halls were dominated by Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec. I am most familiar with Degas’ dancers and Lautrec’s Moulan Rougue, but Sickert was new to me.
Sickert was greatly influenced by Degas and his work looked to be in good company hanging in this exhibit. Heavy outlines seemed characteristic of his style, made with a dry brush, making them rough and a little juvenile. His palette was dark; browns, neutrals, with emphatic colors such as bright red or a yellow-green here and there. Nudes and theater dominated the subject matter.
One of my favorites by Sickert was a theater scene of a young woman in red, singing. The audience is looking up at her on the stage, but not at where she is represented on the canvas. On further inspection you realize that she is her own reflection and the audience is looking to the real singer.
Many of Sickert's paintings had a slight awkwardness such as the reflected singer. Another theater scene is of the opera boxes, details of the architecture and sconces. The theatergoers seem to be at an unruly slant within their seats with amusing expressions.
A simple looking domestic setting has a couple seemingly in a rut. They no longer have exciting conversation, just everyday “please pass the tea”. The tension created by their composition makes the painting that much more intriguing.
It was a great exhibit and a stellar collection.
I also have to praise the Phillips Collection for having invested in contemporary art. I saw two paintings – one dated 2000 and the other 2003. It seems rare that a collection looks to comtemporaries.
Another point for Phillips.