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A Fellow Collection Prepares to Move On

July 6, 2011

Chaim Soutine, Windy Day, Auxerre, c.1939. Oil on canvas, 19 1/4 x 28 5/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1943.

Sunday, July 3, was the final day to visit the Barnes collection in its original home in Merion, Pennsylvania. Founder Albert Barnes, a famously voracious collector, was buying art at the same time as Duncan Phillips. Both gravitated towards French impressionists, post-impressionists, and modernists, especially Cézanne, Renoir, and Matisse. Surprisingly, the two men do not appear to have had any relationship or substantive exchange.

There certainly were affinities in their collections, but their methods could not have been more different. Phillips, a careful and strategic collector, purchased four works by Chaim Soutine between 1940 and 1951 and gave the painter his first American museum show in 1943. Barnes, by contrast and as the legend goes, visited Soutine in his studio in Paris in the early 1920’s and bought every painting in sight. Barnes collected Soutine first, but it was Phillips who presented the artist to the public in the distinctive form of a solo exhibition.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Dawn permalink
    July 6, 2011 8:42 pm

    I remember hearing a story about a conversation between Duncan Phillips and Alfred Barnes about Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. In this conversation, Barnes condescendingly asked Phillips if the painting was the ONLY Renoir that he owned. (Barnes owned many Renoir paintings.) Phillips responded that it is the only Renoir he needed. I believe that Barnes wanted to purchase the painting from Durand Ruel but Durand Ruel sold it to Phillips instead.

  2. Conservation Studio permalink
    July 8, 2011 6:55 pm

    That is my absolute favorite DP story!

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