American art critic and art collector Duncan Phillips was the grandson of a steel company magnate and the son of a window-glass millionaire, but his life wasn’t a bed of roses.
In the course of two years, between 1917 and 1918, Phillips lost his father and his brother, who both died suddenly.
As a testament to those men, and as “a beneficent force in the community where I live,” Phillips opened the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 1921, featuring his family’s small collection.
He then began spending his own fortune to expand that collection dramatically.
Eventually the Phillips Collection, as his museum came to be called, included important works by a broad group of influential artists, from such 19th century artists as Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Honoré Daumier, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet to the more modern Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.
Works by all of these artists will be part of a traveling exhibit, “European Masterworks: The Phillips Collection,” on display at the High Museum of Art April 6 through July 14.
The exhibit will also feature works by Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Nicolas de Staël, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso.
Phillips believed that “the really good things of all ages and all periods could be brought together … with such delightful results that we recognize the special affinities of artists.”
Claudia Einecke, the High’s curator of European art, said “The Phillips Collection is one of the most satisfying focused art collections I know. It is a veritable who’s who of late 19th and early 20th-century modernism, but it is also intensely personal.”
The High will be the exclusive venue in the Southeast for the Phillips show, which will include 75 iconic paintings and sculptures from America’s first museum of modern art.