The Phillips Collection has long had a special relationship with Jake Berthot (1939-2014), whose introspective paintings have been described as visual poetry. In 1996, the museum organized an exhibition of his work, and in 2015 received a major bequest from the artist’s estate. Including promised gifts, the Phillips now holds 25 paintings, drawings, and prints by Berthot, the largest and most important ”unit” of this artist’s work in a museum collection.
At Berthot’s memorial service in New York, one of the artist’s closest friends, collector Hank Werronen (who in 1994 made a promised gift of Berthot’s painting Yellow/Yellow to the Phillips), recalled Berthot’s “concept of slow paintings”: “When I told Jake that I had been looking at one of his paintings for several years and it was just starting to open up . . . he thought this was hilarious and told me, ‘That makes me very happy to hear . . . because it took me a long time to paint that picture . . . and I didn’t want you to see all it had to offer in a glance.’”