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Impressionist Still Life exhibition records

Identifier: IR-CUR-029

Scope and Contents

Curatorial records in this collection document the research, accompanying catalogue, and planning for the exhibition entitled Impressionist Still Life, organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This was the first major exhibition devoted to French Impressionist still life painting and the transformation of that work in the late nineteenth century. Assembled from fifty-five of the world's most renowned museum and private collections, the exhibition initially opened at The Phillips Collection, and featured over eighty masterpieces by fifteen artists, including Cezanne, Degas, Fantin-Latour, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, and van Gogh. Every work in the exhibition marked a defining moment in each artist's development and in the evolution of late nineteenth century still life painting. The show culminated in the work of Cezanne, which laid the foundation for the cubism of Braque and Picasso in the twentieth century.

Beginning in 1995, many individuals at The Phillips Collection whose efforts are reflected in these records devoted time and energy to the project, performing essential research, locating works, and initiating correspondence and loan requests. The primary creator of the catalogue and exhibition planning records in this collection was Eliza E. Rathbone, Chief Curator, who directed the project, and who found a collaborator in George Shackelford, Chair of the Art of Europe at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Documentation includes the groundwork and exhibition checklist created by Charles S. Moffett, former director of The Phillips Collection, in conceiving the idea for this exhibition many years earlier. Anne Norton Craner, Curatorial Assistant, worked closely with Moffett in the first year of exhibition planning and Lisa Portnoy Stein, Curatorial Assistant, compiled valuable research files. Assistant Curator, Katy Rothkopf, worked on loan requests for the exhibition in 1997 and 1998. Among other staff of The Phillips Collection reflected in the documents was Jay Gates, Director; Mary Hannah Byers, Curatorial Assistant; Jennifer A. Greenhill, Curatorial Research Assistant; and Susan Behrends Frank, Assistant Curator.

Records in this collection consist of assembled research materials and primary documentation created during the course of catalogue and exhibition planning. The bulk of the planning files are comprised of execution documents such as legal and financial records, correspondence related to the planning and logistics of the exhibition, checklists, loan requests and responses, schedules, installation designs, publicity materials, including press releases and newsclippings, program events, and audio guide documentation.


  • 1860 - 2003
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 2001
  • Usage: The material in this collection were used in preparation for the 2001 exhibition.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection includes restricted material.

Biographical / Historical

In May 1992, the Trustees of The Phillips Collection named noted curator and art historian Charles S. Moffett to the directorship of the museum. Moffett, a specialist in the field of painting of late-nineteenth-century France, was directly involved with the presentation of a series of exhibitions during his tenure as director (1992-1998). Impressionist Still Life (2001-2002) became the third in an extraordinary series of Impressionist exhibitions organized by Moffett at The Phillips Collection, originating with Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1996, followed by the nationally touring Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige, on view at the Phillips in 1998.

As evidenced in the records herein, Moffett first conceived the idea of a major exhibition on still life painting in France for the period of 1848-1914, while serving in 1991 as senior curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Subsequently, as director of The Phillips Collection, Moffett began collaborating with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Van Gogh Museum to join together to mount the first exhibition devoted to a study of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist still life painting, with a fully illustrated catalogue envisaged. Plans for the exhibition were evolving when Moffett's tenure as director come to an end in the spring of 1998. By May, chief curator Eliza Rathbone, then serving as acting director of the Phillips, had notified lenders that the show was being postponed. Instead of opening in the fall of 1999 at The Phillips Collection, the show was rescheduled to open at the museum two years later in the fall of 2001. Jay Gates assumed the directorship of The Phillips Collection in June of 1998.

Logistics for the show would now be limited to two American venues instead of the three as originally planned, with the co-organizer being the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. After its premiere at The Phillips Collection on September 22, 2001, the exhibition Impressionist Still Life remained on view through January 13, 2002. The show then travelled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where it opened on February 17, 2002, before closing on June 9, 2002. Funding support for the exhibition came from a grant by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The exhibition was sponsored in Boston by Merrill Lynch; the media sponsor was WBZ-TV4. An extensive exhibition catalogue accompanied the show.


8 Linear Feet (19 full legal boxes )

Language of Materials



Impressionist Still Life exhibition records contain materials created and collected by the Curatorial Department, The Phillips Collection, during the course of organizing the exhibition. Included are research, catalogue, and exhibition planning files.


The collection is organized into three major series. Each series is divided into secondary subseries, with the arrangement described in detail in the series descriptions. Series 1: Research, 1888-2002 (boxes 1-15; 6.3 linear ft.) Series 2: Catalogue Planning, 1997-2001 (box 16; .2 linear ft.) Series 3: Exhibition Planning, 1991-2002 (boxes 16-19; 1.5 linear ft.)

Custodial History

This collection is owned by The Phillips Collection and was accessioned from the curators' offices.

Related Materials

The Phillips Collection Library houses exhibition history files, arranged chronologically. Included are a few file folders containing publicity materials and final checklists for the exhibition Impressionist Still Life, with additional documentation regarding the show at its second venue, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Particularly helpful for the user may be the final checklists for those works shown at the two museums, as these documents and others are not found within the curatorial records described in this finding aid.

Processing Information

After an initial survey of the collection, some duplicate materials were identified and a number of documents were determined to be of no future reference value for the collection. In discussions with the librarian, approval was given to photocopy documentation, weed duplicate documents (retaining those with hand-written notes), and discard selected drafts. Boxes and folders containing restricted materials were marked with a red dot (see note above regarding "Restrictions"). Folder headings were maintained when possible, but were re-written in some cases for greater clarity and accuracy. In general, metal clips were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Due to the volume of research material, staples were not removed in series one. Adhesive Post-it® notes were photocopied if necessary, otherwise removed. All documents were re-foldered into acid-free folders.

SPECIAL NOTE: Accents were omitted from French words to promote ease of searching.

Impressionist Still Life exhibition records, 1860-2003
The Phillips Collection Library and Archives 1600 21st Street NW Washington D.C. 20009
Colleen Hennessey, Archives Assistant, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian
October 2010-May 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Colleen Hennessey, Archives Assistant, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian

Repository Details

Part of the The Phillips Collection Archives Repository

1600 21st St. NW
Washington DC 20009 United States