Some of the visitors at the Dartmouth Carnival last week-end have no doubt seen the Orozco murals in the university library, and it is only right that the flagrant attack on the academic tradition which they constitute should receive its merited censure. Since at Harvard there are problems enough to hold our attention, it is seldom that an obvious need occurs to take a college like Dartmouth to task. Yet they have committed a cardinal sin for an endowed American university. The indulgence of Dartmouth and of the public is asked if Harvard is used to illustrate by contrast the objections to the murals.
From the standpoint of morals there can be no defense of the weakening effect of such "art" on the student body. What will happen if students are allowed, nay, even encouraged to get their appreciation of works of art by first-hand contact with them outside of a museum, instead of by the only sound methods which are books, lantern slides, and hard work. They may be persuaded that mere enjoyment of art is the end desired. They will surely forget that criticism and the knowledge that will fit them for the curatorship of a museum are the worthwhile parts of artistic study. We have here been, we are glad to say, quite successful in excluding anything in our buildings that might suggest art for art's sake, as can be seen by the close relationship, for instance, of the Sargent murals in our library to commercial poster work.
Still more painful is another aspect of the Dartmouth murals. The recklessness that allowed that college to sink valuable money in the satisfaction of a whim when endowment funds are sharing the pinch of the times is born of a short-sighted policy, to say the least. It probably never occured to university officials that perhaps they would some day want to tear down the library to make way for a large power house or laundry, and what would then become of the money spent in patronizing Orozco. Can anyone say that a mural depicting the growth of a distinctive American civilization is a contribution to productive scholarship? Will it ever go out to the library shelves of the land and attract bright young western scholars to Dartmouth who can help to make it a truly national university? There is fortunately no indication that Harvard will ever recognize, much less patronize, a living artist.