Two Art Exhibitions in Washington D.C.
Recently I ran across an article in the French news discussing two art exhibitions that
are currently showing in Washington, D.C. They are exhibitions of American artists who
were strongly influenced by France at the beginning of the 20th century. If you are in
the D.C. area, you can check them out. Here is my translation of the article (this will
From Claude Monet to Marcel Duchamp, two expositions in Washington honor the
influence of French and European painting, sources of inspiration for American
Impressionism and later, of Modernism.
The American Art Museum features “An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection”
which took inspiration from France at the end of the 19th century.
The Phillips Collection welcomes the treasures of “The Anonymous Society”, an
experimental museum founded in the 1920’s by the artist Marcel Duchamp and the art
patron Katherine Dreier to promote modern art in America.
Shown for the first time in its entirety, the Halff Collection features a collection of 25
masters of American Impressionism, carefully put together during the past 20 years by
a couple of rich patrons from Texas who are descendants of entrepreneurs who
originally came from Germany.
All the artists, from William Merritt Chase to Childe Hassam to John Singer Sargent,
studied and painted in France to capture “this modern and radical mind-set, this joy of
viewing and celebrating the act of painting” explained Elizabeth Broun, Museum
At the entry to the exposition is an 1887 quote from the author Henry James: “the
simple truth is that when you see American art today, you will find it first in Paris. And
when you see it away from Paris, there is a lot of Paris in it”.
“It was a generation of artists who looked to France for their training, not so much for
subjects or themes, but for that modern inspiration which brought impressionism to
them”, explained Eleanor Harvey, the manager of the exposition.
The American painter Frederich Carl Friesche, who was a neighbor of Monet at Giverny
at the beginning of the 20th century, explained why he painted in France: “because I
feel more free. There is not this puritan pressure which prevails in America. I can paint
a nude in my garden without being thrown out of town”.
This showing of “one of the best collections of works from the beginning of the century
still in private hands”, according to Mrs. Harvey, echos the vast retrospective
“Americans in Paris, 1860-1900” which is taking place simultaneously at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
At the museum of the Phillips Collection, the stirring exhibition of the “Société anonyme”
shows how this group, founded by Marcel Duchamp, Katherine Dreier and Man Ray,
made itself the ambassador and spokes-person on the other side of the Atlantic for the
grand masters of modernism, who for the most part were living in Paris. The collection
of 130 works was bequeathed to the Yale University art gallery by the rich patron,
Katherine Dreier, who was herself a painter.
The collection includes Miro, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Klee but also the works of Fernand
Léger, Juan Gris, Picabia and Brancusi who, thanks notably to the "Société anonyme",
found a following in the United States.
It includes also the painting of Duchamp entitled “Tu m” a long canvas punctured with a
scar, known as being the farewell to painting in 1918 of this eclectic artist who from then
on concentrated on “ready made” objects and his rotating installations.
- "An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection" from November 3 to February 5 at
the American Art Museum in Washington.
- "The Société Anonyme. Modernism for America" until 21 January at the Phillips
Collection in Washington.