The Artist Sees Differently: Modern Still Lifes from The Phillips Collection

 

This exhibition of forty paintings from The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., offers an analysis of the modernist still life, including rarely seen works by European and American masters such as Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, and Georgia O’Keeffe. In their quest to create a new art suited to new times, many late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists rejected the official hierarchies of the French Academy, which privileged epic narratives of history, mythology, and religion, and chose instead to paint still lifes—depictions of the humble objects of daily life, and traditionally considered the lowliest of genres.

Still life provided artists with the means of experimenting with pattern and abstraction and investigating the tensions between the reality beyond the frame and the complex visual structures within it, and thus for pushing the boundaries of painting itself. Moving into the twentieth century, avant-garde painters continued to rethink and disrupt their relationship to the past as they attempted to create work relevant in a world transformed by technology, new media, and, ultimately, two world wars. For many artists, still life offered a vehicle to experiment with abstraction and to investigate the tensions between the reality beyond the frame and the complex visual structures within it. Spanning the first six decades of the twentieth century, the exhibition provides a focused lens to examine a period in which artists explored aesthetic strategies that responded to a rapidly changing world.

The Artist Sees Differently: Modern Still Lifes from The Phillips Collection has been organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. in collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum. This exhibition at Princeton has been made possible with generous support from the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; and William S. Fisher, Class of 1979, and Sakurako Fisher through the Sakana Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; Betty Wold Johnson, through the Robert Wood Johnson III Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Barbara and Gerald Essig; the Rita Allen Foundation; and the Partners of the Princeton University Art Museum.