ART IN YOUR ATTIC

We Americans are so used to thinking of art as something you go far away to find that only too often we are like the fairy-tale hero who combed the world for a magic chum that was right under his nose an the time.* You do not have to sail to Europe in order to secure art worthy of your home; you do not even have to carry your checkbook into the hushed salons of big-city art dealers. Hidden away in some corner of your parents' or grandparents' house, you may well unearth the paintings your great-grandmother selected for her wall. If, like so many of us, you have moved away from your family homestead, you may discover in a little antique shop around the corner the pictures which somebody else's great-grandmother bought and cherished. Sometimes, for the mere labor of carrying a load down the attic stairs--or for a few dollars--you may secure just the spot of color and design that is needed to give your living-room distinction.

When Great-Aunt Harmony wanted a picture to enliven that dark place in the hall, she might make it herself, never doubting that she knew how. Had she not been to the best Ladies' Seminary in the region, where she had been taught "dancing, needlework, and painting in oils"? And when Harmony got married, her groom wanted portraits of them both as parlor pieces. He did not mourn that he lacked the cash to pay some famous member of the National Academy. He hailed a face-painter who came by in a carriage and paid him with three nights' lodging and a bottle of rum.

While Harmony and her husband lived, the pictures hung on their walls, blending perfectly with the furniture and china. However, Harmony's heirs--particularly that fancy daughter-in-law from the city-- thought the whole decorative scheme stuffy and out of date. Furniture and pictures went up into the attic together.

Most of us have long since discovered that old American furniture has

____________________
*
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Mademoiselle's Living for Spring ( 1948), 30-34, 154-55.

-148-

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