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Museum Talks | Washington, DC #15 The Phillips Collection – Bonnard’s Worlds Exhibition

Exhibition, Talk

Pierre Bonnard, Dining Room on the Garden, 1935, Oil on canvas, 50 x 53 1/4 in., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


March 18, 2024 6:30 pm ET


Museum Talks | Washington, DC is a program of curatorial talks proposed by the Villa Albertine in collaboration with the museums of the DMV area.

Villa Albertine DC is honored to host Elsa Smithgall, Chief Curator at the Phillips Collection, for a virtual talk on the current exhibition celebrating Pierre Bonnard, with opening remarks by Dr. Jonathan P. Binstock, Vradenburg Director and CEO at The Phillips Collection. This event took place online on March 18 at 6:30 pm.

This conversation was moderated by Faya Causey, former Head of academic programs at the NGA,  followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Rewatch the virtual tour below:

The Exhibition

Delve into the rich realms of the painter, as the exhibition focuses on the sensory spheres of experience that nourished Pierre Bonnard’s work. The exhibition is organized by a measure of intimacy, transporting visitors through the landscapes of Paris, Normandy, and the French Riviera, towards the painter’s most intimate dwellings, and thoughts. The exhibition features sixty masterpieces from prominent European and American museums as well as prestigious private collections worldwide.

From the first more decorative-style gardens to impressionistic views of nature, Bonnard’s canvases come alive. As several interior paintings present views from outside through doors or windows, explore the artist’s symbiotic relationship between the interior and exterior. Bonnard also explored spaces dedicated to social encounters, from the dining room to the parlor, where the viewers can experience his sense of stillness, punctuated by an intensity of feeling. Highlights include depictions of Bonnard’s lifelong muse, Marthe de Méligny Bonnard. Among the most private images, a series of paintings of her in the bathtub, from 1936 to 1946 are exposed. These are some of Bonnard’s most celebrated depictions of the subject.

The Artist

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) defied categorization. He was a founding member of the Nabis, a group of impressionist painters. He is often perceived as a bridge between impressionism and modernism, as he was a close friend of both Monet and Matisse. Bonnard’s paintings invite viewers into a realm of bold colors where scenes flow organically, seeking to capture what the painter called the “first sensation.”

The Speakers

Elsa Smithgall, Chief Curator at The Phillips Collection

Elsa Smithgall is a noted art historian and curator with a specialty in modern American and European art. She is the co-curator of Bonnard’s Worlds (2023-2024, co-organized with the Kimbell Art Museum) and served as a collaborating curator on the last major Bonnard exhibition at the Phillips, Bonnard: Early and Late (2002). Smithgall has curated major international traveling exhibitions, lectured widely, and authored and edited numerous publications, including the museum’s landmark centennial exhibition and catalogue, Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century (2021).

Other projects she has directed include Inside Outside, Upside Down (2021), Ten Americans: After Paul Klee (2017-2018, co-organized with the Zentrum Paul Klee); People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (2016-2017, co-organized with the Museum of Modern Art), Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works (2016-2017), William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master (2016-2017, co-organized with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Musei Civici di Venezia, and the Terra Foundation for American Art); Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border (2011, co-organized with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), and Stella Sounds: The Scarlatti K Series (2011), among others.

Smithgall has a certificate in Executive Education for Museum Leaders from The Getty Leadership Institute. She received her MA in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and her BA in Art History and French from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining The Phillips Collection, she held positions at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Jonathan P. Binstock, Vradenburg Director and CEO at The Phillips Collection

Jonathan joined The Phillips Collection in March 2023. Dr. Binstock comes to the Phillips following eight years as the Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) of the University of Rochester in New York. During his tenure in Rochester, Jonathan led an expansion and diversification of the museum’s permanent collection, special exhibition program, public engagement and outreach efforts, and audience as well as a significant increase in the museum’s annual budget. Jonathan has also held positions at the art advisory and finance group of Citi Private Bank, Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

The Phillips Collection and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth

This exhibition is organized by the Phillips Collections and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and curated by Elsa Smithgall, Chief Curator of the Phillips Collection, and George Shackelford, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Kimbell Art Museum. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog co-published by the Kimbell Art Museum and the Phillips Collection, in association with Yale University Press. 

Pierre Bonnard, Dining Room on the Garden, 1935, Oil on canvas, 50 x 53 1/4 in., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

In partnership with

The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, was opened in 1921 in historic Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, by collector and philanthropist Duncan Phillips.


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