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George Grosz: New York Harbor, 1934. Watercolor on off-white wove paper. 66.4 x 48.2cm. The Detroit Institute of Arts. Bequest of Robert H. Tannahill. Photograph: exhibition catalogue.


Vincent Van Gogh: The Diggers, 1889. Oil on canvas. 65.1 x 50.2 cm. The Detroit Institute of Arts. Bequest of Robert H. Tannahill.



Impressionist and Modern Masterworks
from the collection of Robert Hudson Tannahill and The Detroit Institute of Arts at The Phillips Collection in Washington in the exhibition "Degas to Matisse" until January 21, 2001. Get the catalogue from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.
Article added in November 2000

The exhibition's subtitle comes closest to the real focus of the show: Impressionist and Modern Masterworks. Provided by the collection of Robert Hudson Tannahill, The Detroit Institute of Arts. In Washington, the 57 works are presented within the context of the collection by another passionate art lover, Duncan Phillips, who created America's first museum of modern art before Washington's Mall was lined up with major museums.
 
Robert Hudson Tannahill (1893-1969) was born in Detroit as the only child of a wealthy parents. His maternal family were the founders of the J.L. Hudson department store where his father was vice-president. From 1911 to 1915, Tannahill attended the University of Michigan. In 1913, he made his first trip to Europe where he fell in love with French art. In 1916, he received an M.A. from Harvard University. 1917-18 he did civilian army service as an interpreter at a base hospital in France. In 1920, Tannahill made his first purchase of modern art, the watercolor The Steamer by Emil Nolde. 1920-21 Tannahill wrote four plays and secured copyright for two of them. His mother died in 1921, his father in 1925. They left him their entire estates and, thereafter, he received a steady income from J.L. Hudson stock. In 1927, Tannahill was named a benefactor of the Founders Society because of his financial support to The Detroit Institute of Arts. Four years later, he was appointed a trustee of the Detroit institution, a position he held until his death. He became the chairman of the Friends of Modern Art who purchased and donated works to the museum. In 1932, Tannahill commissioned Diego Rivera to paint his portrait and helped to organize an exhibition of the artist's paintings and drawings. The same year, he exhibited some of his modern paintings at The Detroit Institute of Arts. It was the only occasion when he allowed his name to be associated with his collection.

In 1933, he organized the exhibition Paintings from the Ambroise Vollard Collection. From the exhibition, he acquired Mont Sainte-Victoire (c. 1904-1906) by Paul Cézanne. The following year, he worked with Pierre Matisse in New York where he co-organized an exhibition of works by Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault. He also helped to organize a show of works by John Marin and Georgia O'Keeffe and purchased works by both artists. In 1935, Tannahill helped his cousin Josephine Kanzler start the Detroit Committee of the Museum of Modern Art, with the goal of promoting modern art outside New York City. A year later, he organized an exhibition of African art and, in 1940, one of watercolors and drawings by Pablo Picasso and one of works by Paul Klee. In 1946, Tannahill became the executive secretary of the Founders Society and the Arts Commission of The Detroit Institute of Arts. Two years later, he built a new house to showcase his collection. In 1961, he established the Robert Tannahill Fund to help support his favorite charitable organizations in Detroit. The following year, in poor health, he resigned from the Arts Commission. In 1966, the American galleries at The Detroit Institute of Arts officially became the Robert Hudson Tannahill Wing of American Art. In 1969, Tannahill died of congestive heart failure. A year later, the exhibition A Collector's Treasure: The Tannahill Bequest opened. Tannahill was a serious, somewhat retiring figure, whose collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings, sculptures and works on paper forms the core of the modern department at The Detroit Institute of Arts. His eclectic taste led him to build a collection with objects ranging from African sculpture through French decorative arts to modern art. Throughout his lifetime, he had given over 450 objects to The Detroit Institute of Arts.
 
Duncan Clinch Phillips (1886-1966) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His grandfather was a banker and the cofounder of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. His father founded a company that manufactured glass. Duncan Phillips began to collect prior to 1920 when he bought works by Americans including George Luks, Ernest Lawson and Arthur B. Davies. In 1918, in response to his brother's death just 13 months after their father had passed away, he decided to found a museum of modern art in their memory. Over the next three years, he purchased over 230 works and added a second-floor room to his family's home in Washington, D.C., which opened to the public in 1921.
 
Tannahill and Phillips both bought Impressionist and modern art works. Cézanne, Picasso, Rouault, Modigliani, Degas, Matisse and Klee are present in both collections. Tannahill and Phillips were also united by acquisitions of works by the American artists John Marin and Charles Demuth. But their taste was not identical. Tannahill gave most of his attention to European works of the early 20th century, especially French and German. He shared his enthusiasm for German Expressionism with his friend William R. Valentiner, a German-born art historian who was a young curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who became Director of The Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1920s.

Although Phillips shared Tannahill's fascination with European artists, his interest in American modernists emerged as early as 1921 when he bought a painting by Marsden Hartley. Five year later, he acquired Georgia O'Keeffe's My Shanty, the first painting by the artist that entered a museum collection. From the start an advocate of American art, Phillips was also the first to purchase and present to the public the work of Milton Avery and Arthur Dove. Other American artists he collected include Edward Hopper, Arthur B. Davies, Jacob Lawrence and Albert Pinkham Ryder.
 
Tannahill was drawn to portraits and figures. His choices focused more on line and form. Phillips, in contrast, generally favored landscapes and interiors. He leaned towards works with an emphasis on color. Neither collector actively embraced nonrepresentational art, although Phillips was more receptive to abstract work. As the director of America's first museum of modern art, he was dedicated to gathering and interpreting the art of his time. He acquired select works by contemporary artist's such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. The Rothko Room at the Phillips Collection was the first such presentation of the artist's work by any museum.

Order the book from
Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk (the book cover is different from the exhibition catalogue).

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.