Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock and Georgia O'Keeffe are among the most famous of American artists. Soon, paintings by those and other marquee names will come to the Tampa Museum of Art.
"This will be one of the most important shows we've done, simply because of the breadth of the collections," said TMA Executive Director Todd Smith. "This very much matches our mission to help people make sense of modern and contemporary art."
While most traveling art shows feature one artist or theme over time, this exhibit turns that idea around and essentially tells anyone: If you have a favorite modern American painter, there's a good chance they have a work in this show.
The roughly 100 paintings from 75 artists come to Tampa this spring from the Phillips Collection in Washington, a private art collection the Phillips family initially assembled for their stately home, but opened to the public in the 1920s as essentially the nation's first modern and contemporary art museum.
The show has already traveled through Italy, Spain, and several U.S. cities, and will take over five of the Tampa museum's eight galleries. If successful, the show could rival the Henri Matisse exhibit that helped open the new museum's new downtown building in February 2010.
The collection schedule calls for a show starting Feb. 2 and ending April 28, and is titled "To See As Artists See." As for how artists do see, Smith said "very individually."
For instance, there is the 1886 Winslow Homer work "To The Rescue" that shows two Victorian-era women casually walking on a stormy beach as a man runs with a rope to some unseen emergency.
There is an early 1922 O'Keeffe work "My Shanty," as well as some of her first floral depictions. There are several famous Edward Hopper works that will appeal to fans of his stark-if-gloomy cityscapes, including the 1926 "Sunday" showing an exhausted shopkeeper, and the 1946 "Approaching a City" of a rail tunnel cutting into a building skyline that could be anywhere.
A Jackson Pollock work "Composition" is vaguely dated between 1938 and 1941 shows a phase before his paint splatters, in this case swoops of somewhat anatomical parts.
As for what visitors should take away from the show, Smith said they will see the personal stamp of the Phillips family who bought works for their own home that supported individual artists in their early years, as well as some further along.
Some works show America's rugged ethos splitting from Victorian propriety, while some show America's response to European trends like cubism, while others show how rural Americans dealt with the shock of moving to the cities.
Perhaps reflecting the optimism the museum has for the exhibit, they have not yet determined if the admission price for the Phillips collection will be higher than the standard $10 adult ticket price for most days.