Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Few great American artists are more inextricably linked to a particular place than Eakins is with Philadelphia"

New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman does an Eakins tour in and around Philadelphia. He warms up by giving his take on the recent controversy, starting with a reference to Alice Walton's 2005 purchase of Durand's "Kindred Spirits" from the New York Public Library (mentioned earlier here):

"Having learned from that debacle for the library, Thomas Jefferson University insisted on offering Philadelphians a way to keep the Eakins. Snobs who argued that Arkansas was itself a travesty as the destination for great art ignored how great American museums, including Philadelphia’s, were put together in the first place. Robber barons have always propelled the dispersion of cultural treasures. Capitalism is ruthless.

"But in this case it all worked out. The escape clause of matching the price imitated how nations like Britain save their patrimony. Philadelphians, their pride challenged, rallied, notwithstanding that they seemed to take the painting for granted for years (few people went to see it) ..."