Made in the USA

162 works by the greats of American art are on exhibit at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. See www.phillipscollection.org. The museum is in an 1897 Georgian Revival house in Washington’s DuPont Circle. One of the remarkable things about the collection is its range from realism to impressionism to cubism to abstract impressionism. Walking from room to room, you experience a survey course in American art masterpieces: Winslow Homer’s documentary-like scene of a 19th century female farmworker resting on a wooden pitch-fork  as the sun sets a golden hue; Henry Twachtman’s adaptation of French Impressionism  to the landscapes of New England in summer and winter; Jacob Lawrence’s Great Migration series painted from 1940-41 depicting the migration experiences of a million African Americans who migrated from the rural South to the urban North between the two World Wars in search of a better life; taller-than-you canvases by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko who wanted the viewer to be enveloped by color the way you can be by music.

The Made in the USA exhibit tells a story of how American painters, while influenced by Europe, also declared their independence from Old World influences and set out to define an American art that could speak with its own voice. The result in these 162 works is an energy for innovation, for striving and laboring, for closeness to land and place, for pluralism of people and viewpoints. In other words—an energetic, American voice.

Panel from the Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence: “In the North They Had the Freedom to Vote.”