Collections & Critiques
We must have opportunities to see "more popular art, more which is unimportant to the universe but important to the individual; for art can be second-rate, yet genuine." The answer to this plea found in Clive Bell's book called "Art" is perhaps unconsciously embodied in the collection of New England Genre Paintings now on exhibit in Fogg Museum. Although these paintings presented by the Museum Class cannot be placed under the heading of great or profoundly significant art, they contain a warmth and a source of satisfaction which can only be attributed to the presence of sincere feeling and well-balanced simplicity.
Family scenes, life on the farm, whaling ships, the evils of drink, in fact almost all phases of nineteenth century New England are available for serious and often whimsical scrutiny. A small piece by Winslow Homer entitled "Class Day at Harvard" should provide much amusement for seniors who are about to take part in that annual function a few weeks from now; and the Currier and Ives print called "Kiss Me Quick" is a fine example of a Victorian method of amatory advance--now unfortunately outmoded. On the other hand, there are many paintings in the exhibit which are worth serious consideration because of their intrinsic value as works of art. Such a one is Homer's watercolor, "The Berry Pickers," in which the artist's skill in using the watercolor medium to bring out the brightness of the sky on a hot summer day can be clearly seen and appreciated.
In this exhibit we are brought face to face with the frank and unpretentious nature of real people, real feelings, and real situations. That most of the paintings were framed and hung by members of the Museum Class contributes not a little toward making the exhibit something more than a vapid supplement to an afternoon tea party. There is nothing in the whole collection reminiscent of the phrase "art for art's sake," that syrupy expression which connotes lack of sincerity: in short, lack of something to say. Therefore, those people who attend art exhibits because it is the thing to do--pseudo-aesthetes who come well stocked with the latest artistic catchwords and cliches--are advised to stay as far away from this presentation as possible. The combination of internal thought and external appeal, the juxtaposition of the serious and the light, make this exhibit more than merely interesting. It has guts and is meant for living people.