Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day at the Phillips Collection

Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917) The Dance Class c. 1873
I've been needing a day of play and inspiration ... badly. I might just need more than a day but this afternoon's adventure definitely helped.

I had never been to the Phillips Collection, even though I live in the DC area. It was time to branch out from my regular museum haunts. The draw for the Phillips is the current exhibition "Degas's Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint." There are some truly beautiful pieces in this special exhibition, including my favorite, The Dance Class on loan from the Corcoran, the William A. Clark Collection. The greatest part of that painting (for me) are the dancers descending the spiral staircase in the upper left. That's simply brilliant. There's a real sense of intimacy, and space and light.

Edgar Degas, Dancers At the Barre, oil, early 1880s-1900
Exhibition wall text drove home the fact that Degas worked and reworked and reworked his art. When it didn't appear that he had reworked a piece, it was explained that the painting had quickly sold so he hadn't had a chance. I completely understand this with some of his obviously complex pieces like this one. I could see how others were improved with additions and changes. In one case, I found it strange however. For Dancers At the Barre, Degas drew sketch after sketch with minimal changes over a long period of time. As attractive as the painting is, I wonder what he had to spend so much time working out. I made the mistake of mentioning this to (husband) Randy ... who I thinked laughed at me. The reason I needed a break ... is because I've been fretting and redoing and improving my own work, lots, of late.

The exhibit has wonderful text, too. Degas collected ... and some of the paintings he once owned were on view. He owned Manets but had a falling out with Manet when that artist cut his wife out of the double-portrait canvas that Degas had painted of them. Well, that conjures up a lot of potential stories, doesn't it? I hope none of the portraits I paint suffer the same fate.

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), Hide and Seek, oil, 1888
The Phillips Permanent Collection held many gems as well. (Many of the paintings in the Degas special exhibition are also part of the permanent collection.) Favorites included paintings by John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853-1902) and Pierre Bonnard (French). When Duncan Phillips liked an artist, he bought a lot of his work.

The museum held lots of unknown territory for me -- I've been tuned in elsewhere. Of those artists I knew, their pieces at the Phillips still held surprises in one form or another. William Merritt Chase's Hide and Seek is fascinating. I love the composition, the spareness of the interior and tension within.

Jill Banks, Hide and Seek, oil, 2005. Private collection.
Speaking of Hide and Seek, I painted one by the same title that appeared as my postcard image for my first solo show. Fruit as protaganists.

The Phillips Collection Degas exhibit closes January 8.

A GREAT Holiday Gift for the Artist You Love...
The Audition, oil, 20"h x 16"w, ©Jill Banks 2011
Registration is going on now for classes and workshops that start in January at the Great Falls School of Art. I'll be teaching Portrait Painting and Drawing on Mondays, 10am-1pm, 9 classes starting January 16. There's just one spot left...

And, I'm teaching Still Life Painting in Oils on Tuesdays, 10am-1pm, 9 sessions starting January 17. There's just one spot left in it.

Get more information on classes on my web site, classes page ... and if you are registering, please email me to let me know. Thanks!!!

There are a lot more exciting classes and workshops from terrific instructors ... for artists of all ages. 

For more information on other class offerings, go to the Great Falls Foundation for the Arts web site: www.GreatFallsFoundationForArts.org and click on Winter Catalog to download.

Current Exhibitions
Mainly ... my home is filled with lots of art from my December Home Studio Open House. Want a tour?

Richeson 75 Animals, Birds and Wildlife Online Exhibition, November 7- December 15, 2011. "Pretty Girl Hen" was selected as one of 75 finalists viewable online at www.richeson75.com/wildlife/index.html and in a full-color catalog.

To read more about the 100 Faces in 100 Days project on my web site (www.jillbanks.com), go to the 100 Faces Project Pages 1 and 2 where you can see all 100 of my volunteers. Click on the paintings, and go to my blog post for that person's sitting.

Web: www.jillbanks.com
Blog: jillbanks.blogspot.com
100 Faces in 100 Days Project Page 1 (faces 1-54): www.jillbanks.com/jillbanks/100_Faces_in_100_Days_Project.html
100 Faces in 100 Days Project Page 2 (faces 55-100): www.jillbanks.com/jillbanks/100_Faces_in_100_Days_Project_2.html

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