T W G : Design Journal


Images from the Van Gogh Repetitions exhibit at The Phillips Collection
Source - The Philips Collection

Design principal Brenda Mickel recently took a trip to the East Coast to visit family in the Washington, DC area. While there she made two cultural outings which were especially enjoyable: one to The Phillips Collection and the other to the Dumbarton Oaks estate.

The Phillips Collection opened to the public in 1921 in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. It is considered the first museum of modern art in America. Paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh and Diebenkorn are among the many stunning impressionist and modern works that fill the museum. Extensive new galleries adjoin the former home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The collection continues to develop with selective new acquisitions, many by contemporary artists. 

Brenda was quite fortunate to visit while a special exhibit, Van Gogh Repetitions, was hung. Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) created numerous versions of some of his most famous subjects. "The first exhibition in Phillips Collection history devoted to the artist, Van Gogh Repetitions goes beneath the surface of some of his best-known paintings to examine how and why he repeated certain compositions during his 10-year career, inviting viewers to look more closely than ever before at van Gogh’s celebrated works." (Source - The Phillip's Collection)

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is located in Georgetown, an area Brenda knows well and loves. Administered by the Trustees for Harvard University. It supports research and learning internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships and internships, meetings, and exhibitions. Visitors can stroll the historic gardens, tour the world-class museum collection of art, and attend lectures and concerts in the music room.

Dumbarton Oaks estate
Photo - Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Music Room at Dumbarton Oaks estate
Photo - Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

In 1920, after a long and careful search, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss found their ideal country house and garden within Washington, DC. They purchased a fifty-three-acre property, described as an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds, at the highest point of Georgetown. Within a year the Blisses hired landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the gardens. Working in happy and close collaboration for almost thirty years, Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand planned every garden detail, each terrace, bench, urn, and border.
Since that time, other architects working with Mildred Bliss, most notably Ruth Havey and Alden Hopkins, changed certain elements of the Farrand design. The gardens have also changed in function. In 1940, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss gave the upper sixteen acres to Harvard University to establish a research institute for Byzantine studies, Pre-Columbian studies, and studies in the history of gardens and landscape architecture. They gave the lower, more naturalistic twenty-seven acres to the United States government to be made into a public park. An additional ten acres was sold to build the Danish Embassy. (Source: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection)
Garden at Dumbarton Oaks, designed by Beatrix Farrand
Photo - Karl Gercens

Garden at Dumbarton Oaks, designed by Beatrix Farrand
Photo - Fine Gardening

Brenda was intrigued by the 1960 Pre-Columbian Pavilion. It's architectural style is distinctly mid-century modern, contrasting sharply with the Georgian and french Neoclassical architectural features of the rest of the estate.

Perspectival rendering of the Pre-Columbian Pavilion, designed by architect Philip Johnson
Artwork - Peter Jacoby

Pre-Columbian Pavilion
Photo - Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Exposure to such wonderful art, architecture, and gardens is a high priority for The Wiseman Group staff. Brenda returned to work in San Francisco energized and inspired by her trip to Washington, DC.