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Phillips Collection Review
The first museum of modern art in the country, the masterpiece-filled Phillips Collection is unique in origin and content. It opened in 1921 in the Georgian Revival mansion of collector Duncan Phillips, who wanted to showcase his art in a museum that would stand as a memorial to his father and brother. Having no interest in a painting's market value or its faddishness, Phillips searched for pieces that impressed him as outstanding products of a particular artist's unique vision. At the heart of the collection are impressionist and modern masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, and Henri Matisse. By combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently, the Phillips makes for a museum-going experience that is as intimate as it is inspiring. The domestic scale and personal atmosphere encourage visual conversations among the works.
The collection's most famous piece is Renoir's magnificent work of Impressionism, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Other celebrity works include Degas's Dancers at the Barre, van Gogh's Entrance to the Public Garden at Arles, and Cézanne's intense, piercing self-portrait.
The glowing, chapel-like Rothko Room emerged from a bond between Phillips and modern master Mark Rothko. Rothko said he preferred to exhibit his paintings in smaller, more intimately scaled rooms, and Phillips designed the gallery specifically to the artist's preferences.
Jacob Lawrence's epic Migration Series portrays the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North beginning in World War I.
The Phillips is open late every Thursday until 8:30 pm. On the first Thursday of the month, the museum hosts Phillips after 5, combining live music, gallery talks, entertainment, and a cash bar. Reservations are strongly advised.
The museum holds Sunday-afternoon concerts, a tradition since 1941, in its oak-paneled music room from October through May. Advance reservations are recommended.
Take a break in Tryst at the Phillips café, overlooking the museum courtyard.
There are tours of the museum, all at noon: Spotlight Talks, 15 minutes focusing on one artwork, Tuesday to Fridays; introduction to the permanent collection on Saturdays; tours of special exhibitions on Sundays. Tours are unreserved and included in admission.
Download the Phillips's free app (using the museum's free public Wi-Fi) to learn more about the works in the galleries during your visit.
- Address: 1600 21st St. NW, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC 20009 | Map It
- Phone: 202/387–2151
- Cost: Free for permanent collection weekdays; admission varies weekends and for special exhibitions.
- Hours: Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sat. 10–5; Thurs. 10–8:30; Sun. 11–6
- Website: www.phillipscollection.org
- Metro Dupont Circle.
- Location: Dupont Circle
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