Monday, May 27, 2019

THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION, Washington, D.C., Part 1: America’s First Museum of Modern Art

Detail from Auguste Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. is not exactly off the beaten path, but many visitors to the capital do not realize the wealth of art that it contains. On our recent trip to Washington we discovered that the museum was just a few blocks from our hotel, so we went for a visit.
Music Room, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Note the ornate gold ceiling.
In 1921, Duncan Phillips, and his wife, Marjorie Acker Phillips, a painter, turned the family art collection into a public museum, the Phillips Memorial Gallery, in their home near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The collection soon expanded and the family moved across the street, turning over the entire house to art.
Henri Matisse, "Interior with Egyptian Curtain." The curtain is based on a Middle Eastern textile owned by the artist.
From the beginning the collection focused on “modern” art, acquiring paintings by French Impressionists such as Monet and Renois and Cubists such as Picasso and Braque. Giving equal focus to American and European artists, Phillips juxtaposed works by Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Maurice Prendergast, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Albert Pinkham Ryder with canvases by Pierre Bonnard, Peter Ilsted and Édouard Vuillard.
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Auguste Renoir
But the painting that makes the museum famous and draws the most visitors is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. On our recent visit to the Phillips Collection we happened upon a docent talk in which we learned the identities of all the people depicted in the painting and the history of its acquisition. (The man in the lower right corner is painter Gustave Caillobot, a friend and financial supporter of Renoir.) Phillips paid $125,000 for the painting–a sum far beyond anything that had ever been paid for a painting before. It turned out to be a good investment!
Early Spring by Pierre Bonnard
As the collection expanded over the years it became necessary to add a new wing to the museum. Every room is filled with remarkable art. One small room is devoted to four paintings by Mark Rothko, each intense canvas taking up most of each wall. Standing in the middle one feels bathed in color on every side. (It is the one room in the museum where photography is not allowed.)
Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence
Another room contains the 60 paintings of the Jacob Lawrence Immigration Series, depicting the migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North.. As one circles the room, it is like reading a book. In another room was a remarkable series of photographs, all taken at night and therefore very dark, but with small glimmers of light. The series traces stops on the Underground Railway as they look today.

The Phillips Collection continues to expand and in two years will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Visiting the permanent collection is free. Special exhibits require paid tickets. We did not have time to see those.
The museum has a nice small café (where we had lunch) and a very nice gift shop. And when I went to the ground floor to the rest room, I passed an exhibit of children’s art created in a joint project of the museum and the Maryland Department of Education. Art education is so often neglected in today’s schools, so I was pleased to see the museum’s involvement in the local community.

Monday, May 20, 2019

VOTES FOR WOMEN: A PORTRAIT OF PERSISTENCE, Exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Photo from the 1913 Women's March at the Capital at the entrance to the Votes for Women exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has organized a special exhibition tracing the more than 80-year movement for women to obtain the right to vote as part of the larger struggle for equality. It is called Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence
Map of states and women's suffrage in 1920. White indicates states with full suffrage, black no suffrage. Some states gave women limited rights to vote. The 14th Amendment gave all women the right to vote in every state.
On my recent trip to Washington, I had a chance to see the exhibit–a wonderful array of photos, videos, paintings, posters, books, pennants and much more. From a 19th century portable ballot box to a Suffragette cookbook, every object in the exhibit has a story. A few of the items that particularly fascinated me are below. But the best way to get a sense of the breadth of the exhibit is at the Google Arts and Culture website with its slide show of selected items. The accompanying book for the exhibit, Votes for Women: A Portrait for Persistence by Kate Clarke Lemay, who also curated the exhibit, is available at the museum shop and online.
Winning poster design by Bertha Margaret Boye for the San Francisco College Equal Suffrage League, 1913. It is on the cover of the exhibition book by Kate Clarke Lemay.
In 1917, women who picketed the White House and refused to pay the fine after being arrested were sent to the Occoquan jail. One of them, Natalie Gray, embroidered her name and those of fellow picketers onto this scrap of fabric as a record of their time there.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, journalist. In 1913, at the suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., she famously refused to march in the back with the other African American women. Instead, she marched at the front of the Illinois suffrage delegation.
Belva Ann Lockwood. She was the first woman to campaign for the presidency (1884 and 1888). Her platform focused on women's rights issues, particularly suffrage, temperance, and reform for divorce and marriage laws.
In Belva Ann Lockwood's presidential campaign in 1888 she had satin ribbons with a rebus puzzle, picturing her name with images of a bell, the letter "v", a lock, and a log of wood, thereby assisting illiterate voters. Belva, a trained lawyer, testified in Congress helping to achieve the 1872 equal pay bill for government employees. Her efforts also led to legislation enabling married women in the District of Columbia to retain their property rights and the passage of a bill to empower widows to claim full guardianship of their children.
These are just a small sample of the items in this exhibit. Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence will be on exhibit until January 5, 2020. If you are in Washington, D.C., it is well worth a visit.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Smithsonian. Admission is free.
National Portrait Gallery:
8th and F Streets NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Monday, May 13, 2019

MACHU PICCHU: Guest Post by Tom Scheaffer

Machu Picchu, Peru
My brother Tom loves to travel and is a true intrepid tourist. He is currently on a trip to South America, which has included stops in Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay. In Peru he and his friends visited Machu Picchu, the World Heritage ancient Inca site in the Andes. I have never been to Machu Picchu but would love to go some day. Several Intrepid Tourist readers have shared their experiences at Machu Picchu in past articles. I am always impressed that even though the place is the same for everyone, each person's experience is unique, depending on the time of year, the weather, and what they personally bring to the visit. Here are a few of Tom's comments and photos.
Today we took the train from Cusco down to Machu Picchu. (The elevation of Cuzco is over 11,000 feet (3399 meters);  the elevation of Machu Picchu is 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level.)
Taking the train to Machu Picchu
We are staying in a really nice hotel right by the river looking at a beautiful green mountain.

View from the hotel window.
Tomorrow morning we go up to the temple and spend the day hiking around up there.
Machu Picchu, viewed from above. For scale, note the size of the people compared to the ruins.

Machu Picchu was built by the Incas more than 500 years ago. It was part of a large network of settlements throughout the Andes.
A path leads down into the valley below Machu Picchu
Amazingly, no mortar was used for building the walls of Machu Picchu

In 1983, Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more about Machu Picchu, click HERE.

For Owen Floody's report on Machu Picchu (TIT Jan 2, 2017), click HERE.
For Scott Chandler's report on Machu Picchu (TIT Nov 28, 2016), click HERE.

Monday, May 6, 2019

THE SUPERBLOOM CONTINUES: Spring Wildflowers in Gorman, CA

Poppies and Lupins on the hills of the Tejon Pass, Gorman, California
California’s torrential rains this past winter have produced the most spectacular bloom of wildflowers in years. From the deserts of Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree National Park to the Poppy Preserve in the Antelope Valley to people's back yards, flowers are everywhere. (See Gretchen Woelfle’s recent guest post 4/15/2019.)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
It grows wild throughout California, and became the state flower in 1903.
While the giant fields of poppies at lower elevations in Southern California have been replaced by sage and other less colorful vegetation, the hills and valleys at higher elevations are still blooming. At the Tejon Pass through the Tehachapi Mountains near Gorman, the hills look like they’ve been painted with a giant brush–orange for poppies, blue for lupins, yellow for goldfields.
Lupins (Lupinus albifrons)
On Easter weekend, as we headed north on I-5, we took the bypass on the local road through Gorman for a closer look at the flowers. Here are a few of the many flowers we found growing near the road.
The superbloom continues!
Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziestii)

California chickoree (Rifinesquia californica)

Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea) also known as Burrofat
Clusters of California poppies sprout like giant bouquets amid the grass.