SEPTEMBER 30, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—In the days of the Works Progress Administration one of the things we used to feel happy about was that for the first time art was being brought to the level where all the people could enjoy it.
Ordinarily, art has been costly. It was enjoyed primarily by people of wealth and culture. In medieval days an artist had to be a protege of some great lord, and the pattern has been much the same down to the present day. I think we can thank the days of the depression, however, for a growing feeling among the people that they had a knowledge and understanding and interest in art, and that it belongs in every community, large and small, throughout the nation.
This week two artists are holding an exhibition of their paintings in the Ward Eggleston Galleries in New York City. They are Frank N. Ashley of Manhasset, Long Island, and Thomas Hamilton Breeze, both of them veterans of World War II. After their New York City showing is over, they are going to exhibit their work in Manhasset. This exhibit will open on October 2 and run through to the 12th.
It will not only be possible for people to come and look at the paintings. These artists feel that it should be possible for people to buy paintings at moderate prices to hang in their own houses and to enjoy for the rest of their lives. This is a new concept of the real place of art in the community, and to me it has great validity.
I am not an art critic. I have never been able to do more than make up my mind whether I wanted to see a picture on my walls day in and day out; whether it would give me pleasure to live with it. Because I have lived with beautiful things and among people who love beauty and have taste, I think I have a feeling for all artistic expression, even though I have neither great knowledge nor the slightest artistic ability myself.
I am happy, however, to have this kind of artistic opportunity brought to the smaller communities of our country and I hope it will be so successful in Manhasset that they will continue exhibiting in small surrounding communities. And I hope their success will stimulate artists in other parts of the country to hold similar exhibitions.
I remember one day last winter when I was in St. Louis that a wonderful collection of paintings from galleries in Europe was being exhibited. The school children were conducted to the showing in groups. The crowd was tremendous. But I could not help feeling that even if only a few children got a real feel of joy from a work of art, a great thing was accomplished. I am afraid I spent as much time watching the effect of the paintings on the crowd as I did trying to get near enough to see the paintings myself.