Maurice Prendergast (1858–1924) “Fantasy,” c. 1917, oil on canvas, 22 5/8 x 31 5/8 inches, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., acquired 1921
From the first century to the 18th, the world of Western art didn’t much change. Commissioned masterworks ruled the day: religious frescoes, mythological paintings, portraits of nobles, historical scenes and the like. The subject matter was high-minded, the execution realistic.
That all went out the window beginning in the mid-to-late 1800s. Modern art was born — a near-century-long explosion of creativity and exploration that saw artists experimenting with materials, color, techniques, emotion, subject matter and the very meaning of what art is.
Opened in 1921 in Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection was the first museum of modern art in the United States and has organized the exhibit on display from
Feb. 1–May 31 at the Vero Beach Museum of Art. “From Homer to Hopper: American Art from The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.” includes 65 works by American artists. The selections range from George Inness’ 1869 landscape “Lake Albano” to Helen Frankenthaler’s 1965 abstract painting “Canyon.”
“It’s a pretty epic sweep of American art history,” says Brady Roberts, VBMA’s executive director. “The amazing thing about The Phillips Collection is that they have so many important works. And I’d say these are the highlights of their American modernism collection.” Because of that, he adds with a smile, “This would not be the right time to go to see The Phillips Collection” in Washington, D.C.