Phillips Collection opens Snapshot. Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard

The Phillips Collection presents Snapshot. Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard an exhibition on view from Feb. 4 through May 6, 2012.

George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95. Oil on canvas, 24 x 19 ½ in. Noortman Master Paintings, Amsterdam, on behalf of private collection, Netherlands

The invention of the Kodak handheld camera in 1888 gave post- impressionist artists a new source of inspiration. Seven artists—well known for their paintings and prints—who used the apparatus to document their public spheres and private lives, produced surprising, inventive results. Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard is the first exhibition to focus on how the new technology energized the artists’ working methods and creative vision. Presenting over 200 photographs along with approximately 70 paintings, prints, and drawings from renowned international collections.

Just as people snap photographs with their digital cameras and cell phones today, Pierre Bonnard, George Hendrik Breitner, Maurice Denis, Henri Evenepoel, Henri Rivière, Félix Vallotton, and Edouard Vuillard used the camera to capture intimate moments with their family and trips to the countryside with friends. They sometimes translated their photographic images directly into their paintings, but more often took photographs simply to explore the world. When viewed alongside the artists’ paintings, prints, and drawings, the snapshots reveal fascinating parallels in radical foreshortening, cropping, lighting, silhouettes, and vantage points.

Several of the artists took photographs together, photographed one another, and shared the results. The artists’ combined output of over 10,000 photographs demonstrates their love affair with the camera, though most of the photographs in the exhibition are unknown and previously unpublished. This is the first exhibition to explore these prints not merely as personal documents, but as pioneering experiments in a new medium.

“The private photographs of these artists—especially Bonnard and Vuillard, whose works are pivotal to The Phillips Collection—reveal their keen eye for the modern world. The unguarded snapshots of their loved ones and the city streets allow us to see life as the artists saw it, a perspective Duncan Phillips ardently championed,” says Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski.

The Phillips Collection is located in the heart of Washington’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, at 1600 21st Street, NW, near the Dupont Circle Metro (Q Street exit). Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays until 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. – www.phillipscollection.org

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