Art Exhibitions

A Modern Vision and a Story of Collecting

Paul Cézanne, Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears, 1893. Oil on canvas. 18 1/4 × 21 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Gift of Gifford Phillips in memory of his father, James Laughlin Phillips, 1939.

The works by Degas, van Gogh, Bonnard, Modigliani, and others on view in the Modern Vision exhibition are from The Phillips Collection and reflect the lifelong collecting efforts of Duncan Phillips, who developed an interest in art at an early age. A five-part podcast on collectors and collecting produced in conjunction with the exhibition reveals that Phillips worked in concert with his wife, Marjorie, herself an artist, whom he met shortly before he opened his museum. She became the deputy director of the museum and, after Duncan’s death, went on to become its director.

Marjorie and Duncan Phillips

“She was an equal partner in the process, throughout all of the purchases, all of their relationships with artists, she was deeply involved,” states curator Tanya Paul in the podcast. “I have to believe that his shift in focus, his willingness to be open-minded came about in part because of her involvement.” 

In the exhibition, visitors discover that Phillips, first a vocal critic of the Impressionists and of painters such as Cézanne and Matisse, came to fully embrace and support their work.

The podcast compares Duncan Phillips to Peg Bradley, the woman behind the Museum’s Bradley Collection of Modern Art; she was also one of a pair, who together provided the Milwaukee Art Museum with significant works of art that are the pride of the city. 

Mrs. Harry L. Bradley standing in front of the Museum’s Girl in a Straw Hat by Pierre Bonnard, on exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 7–November 29, 1964.

“In 1977, a gift came to the Milwaukee Art Museum,” says the podcast narrator. “This wasn’t a trinket wrapped up in a box with ribbon, but rather an enormous collection of modern art amassed by a woman named Peg Bradley over twenty-seven years.”

It was in part at Mr. Bradley’s urging that Mrs. Bradley gifted the collection to the Milwaukee Art Museum. “He was very proud to have it remain in Milwaukee,” shares Barbara Brown Lee, a former educator at the Milwaukee Art Museum who knew Peg Bradley personally. “He said he owed everything to the people of Milwaukee.” 

Listen to the full podcast series, and discover more about the story of Duncan Phillips, the Museum’s modern art collection, local visionary collector Peg Bradley (1894–1978), and collectors and collecting in general. The podcast was produced by the House of Who.

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