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About this Item

Title: Free Exhibitions of Works of Art

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: October 21, 1846

Whitman Archive ID: per.00613

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle 21 October 1846: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of the original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle when this editorial was written, and it was first attributed to Whitman by Cleveland Rodgers and John Black in Walt Whitman, The Gathering of the Forces: Editorials, Essays, Literary and Dramatic Reviews and Other Material Written by Walt Whitman as Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846 and 1847 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1920). The piece was also included by Herbert Bergman in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Ruth L. Bohan, Hannah Fink, and Kevin McMullen

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Free Exhibitions of Works of Art.—

We have often wished that the severe economy of our forms of government in this country were susceptible of being stretched in such a way as to make them aid the free exhibition of works of art—paintings, statuary, &c. We think the happiest effects might be expected from such a course. For the influence of beautiful works of art pervades the minds, and in due time the actions and character, of all who come in contact with them. What, for instance, might not be anticipated from the invisible spirit emanating from the perpetual presence of such great and beautiful works as are now met with at Florence, at Rome, and in Paris?—what from such a thing as that immortal spire of the Antwerp Cathedral?1—what from the divine architecture of the world-famed church at Rome?2 And all public exhibitions of paintings, statuary, &c., diffuse more or less of the refinement and spiritual elegance, which are identified with art. . . . . . . . . . We have been led into such thought as this, by noticing in the N. Y. prints an announcement, this morning, (21st) that the Gallery of Statues belonging to the National Academy,3 corner of Broadway and Leonard streets, has been opened to the public for a few days, free of charge. We wish that such liberality were a more frequent thing in this section. We would that the National Academy were so endowed that they could make their exhibitions perpetually free. Is there no hope of a consummation so much to be wished for?


1. The Antwerp Cathedral, known as the Cathedral of Our Lady, is the largest Gothic church in Belgium. Its spire, the tallest in the low countries, loomed over the surrounding landscape, announcing the cathedral's presence for miles around. [back]

2. Whitman is undoubtedly referring to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the largest and most distinguished Renaissance church in Italy. [back]

3. The National Academy of Design, founded in New York City in 1825 and still in existence today, was established to promote the fine arts in America through the exhibition and instruction of artists. Its founders, all professional artists, were led by painters Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872) and Asher B. Durand (1796–1886). The organization was noteworthy for being established and run exclusively by artists. See especially Lois Marie Fink and Joshua Taylor, Academy: The Academic Tradition in American Art (Washington, D.C.: Published for the National Collection of Fine Arts by the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975), 29–49. [back]


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