Thursday 5 July 2012
Tantrums And Serious Reflection
There was so much to see at the Huntington Library and Gardens. Being nerdy types we could have happily used a week in the library and art gallery.
The art collection is in the Huntington mansion. Much was European, including significant British works. It was rather disquieting to see so much of my heritage in a Californian museum. When we got to "The Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough, an icon of British art, I had worked myself into a patriotic lather. "Well", I declared, "I think I'll be popping a few things into my purse and taking them back to the U.K."
Terrified Ssshing from my husband along with anxious glances at the guards. Really, I was hardly going to stuff Master Jonathan Buttall aka "The Blue Boy" into my miniscule fanny pack.
Gainsborough was at the height of his powers but receiving few commissions when he painted “The Blue Boy”. His intention was to impress potential patrons and in doing so he created a masterpiece. There was a public outcry in Britain when the painting was sold to Henry Huntington in 1922. The details of the actual transfer of the painting to the U.S. were kept secret due to fear of disruption.
The Serious Stuff:
Since my jingoistic huff, I have given some earnest thought to the matter of cultural icons in foreign ownership. I’ve ended up with a markedly different point of view.
Due to war, racial stereotyping, greed, propaganda and religious extremism the worst of any culture is almost constantly before us. Sharing what is fine and noble from all cultures is not only O.K. but essential if we are ever to understand, respect and identify with each other.
So here are my rules, because of course the world is going to pay attention to a middle aged housewife from the prairies.
If you own it let other people look at it, lots of people, especially the young and impressionable.
Let it travel to as many places as possible. Oh stop with the horrified gasps and hand wringing. Technology can provide a way to have masterpieces safely travel the world.
If it was stolen, give it back. If you get it back, enjoy it, and then consider my first point.
Spiritual artifacts and human remains to be displayed only with the permission of the originating culture, return them if requested, even if you paid big bucks for them.
What do you think?