What I Looked At Today - Phillips Edition


Why, I feel just like Alma Thomas, what with my shopping around for a modernist painting technique to use on my Dutch camo Landscape series...

Anyway, I headed over to the Phillips Collection in search of Arthur Dove paintings. Huge trove, you know; Duncan Phillips was a longtime supporter of the artist and his work. Until yesterday, they had eight Doves up. But they started some work in a gallery, and so today they have just one: Red Sun, 1935, which is hanging in the little half stairway going to the Goh Annex. His line is promising, not nearly as fastidious as the 17th c. Dutch, of course, and thicker paint, which he mixes and blends on the canvas.

A couple of other unexpected pieces made it well worth the trip:


Piet Mondrian's Painting No. 9, 1939-42, which had belonged to Katherine Dreier. I'd purposely avoided thinking about these paintings in terms of Mondrian, but with his work and his crisp, taped geometry right in front of me, there may be something to it after all. He's on my list now for my next MoMA visit.


You can't really see it in this detail of Skyscraper 1922, but Charles Sheeler drew his buildingscape out first, and then painted very carefully right up to the lines, but often not over them. So his planes--roofs, walls, shadows--often don't meet, but instead hover just apart from each other. I need to track down some later Sheelers for comparison; I like the idea of looking more closely at Sheeler, though, to see how exactly he translates a photographic image to paint. Not that I need an excuse to like looking at Sheeler.

The real pleasure/surprise of the trip: Gustav Courbet's The Mediterranean, 1857. The horizon line is just fantastic, and those darkening clouds to the right? Wow. Way more space and depth and form than I'm looking for, and yet so wonderfully flat.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: October 14, 2009.

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