The Phillips Collection

OK, while the best art museum in this town will remain the National Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection gets the prize for the best atmosphere of an art museum. While I especially felt under dressed here (though I usually do in this town), The Phillips Collection is comprised of two buildings, one a modern building and the other, an old house off of Dupont Circle. So, for part of your walk through the museum, you’re in a typical “museum” setting with perfect lighting and few windows. For the other part, you wander into the old Victorian house and feel like someone has let you wander their house, enjoying their art collection. It created a very intimate feeling to the museum which I enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Louvre but the small setting of feeling like I stepped into some one’s parlor to comment on their O’Keefe was a unique and special experience.

And then there is the painting that I went to see. I turned a corner and there it was, so much bigger than I expected. Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. It literally took my breath away and I had to sit on the bench in front of it and stare (around the two men who insisted on discussing the painting for what felt like eons directly in front of it). Renoir has always been my second favorite (not being a tortured enough artist for me to love as much as my Van Gogh). To see this painting, arguably not his best, but his best-known, work was a joy. It ranks up there with turning the corner to see Starry Night at MOMA or finding down in the basement Crows with Wheatfield in Amsterdam. I will admit, I thought it was smaller because of the film Amelie. The canvas in the movie is smaller that the painting actually is but I admit I also stared at the girl with the glass and smiled. The colors also blew me away. The flowers on the girl’s hat with the dog were so vivid and textured, I would have sworn they were just painted yesterday. Also, this painting has such movement. You expect to see the next moments at any second, as if you were watching a film instead of looking at a painting. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again, I wish I could see the world the way the Impressionists saw it. We all should be so lucky.