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Modern mavens


It's fashionable these days to complain about how museums have been showing the same old Impressionist and modernist masterpieces over and over again merely because they are sure-fire box-office hits. But then along comes another gorgeous exhibition of such works to remind you why the public loves them so well.

"Degas to Matisse: Impressionist and Modern Masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Art," opening today at the Phillips Collection in Washington, is such a show -- a breathtakingly beautiful survey of works by the Usual Suspects -- Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, etc. -- that makes it one of this season's must-see exhibits.

The premise of the show is a comparison of the individual tastes of Detroit collector Robert Tannahill and his Washington counterpart and contemporary, Duncan Phillips. Both men were instrumental in introducing modern art to American audiences, and the show happily draws on works from both the Detroit and Washington museums to make its point.

The Phillips Collection is at 1600 21st St. N.W. in Washington. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5-p.m.; Sunday, noon to 7 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $4 for students and seniors; 18 and under free. For more information call 202-387-2151.

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