Published Works


About this Item

Title: About Pictures, &c.

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: November 21, 1846

Whitman Archive ID: per.00617

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle 21 Novermber 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, Taylor Sloan, and Kevin McMullen

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About Pictures, &c.—

We went into the Institute rooms in Washington st.,1 yesterday afternoon, (20th) to take 'a last fond look' at the pictures—(which we blame ourselves much for not having noticed more fully before.) If we may flatter ourself that our readers remember any length of time what sentiments we advance in these columns, they must be aware that we 'go' heartily for all the rational refinements, and rose–colorings of life—such as music, mirth, works of art, genial kindness, and so forth. We wish every mechanic and laboring man and woman in Brooklyn, would have some such adornment to his or her abode—however humble that abode may be—a print hung on the wall, a pot of flowers, or even the occasional noise of an accordeon,2 (an instrument, by the by, which discourses very eloquent music, well–played, and is cheap to buy, and easy learned: We advise our excellent friend Mr. Hjousberry 3 to get an invoice of cheap ones, and put them in tune for humble purchases, the coming season.). . . . . . And if we are met with the ready rejoinder, that "it is hard enough for poor folk to earn the necessaries of life, let alone things which you can neither eat or wear," we still say that that higher appetite, the appetite for beauty and the intellectual, must be consulted too—and the bread and beef should not always be allowed to carry the day. 'He that hath two loaves,' says Jean Paul,4 'let him go and exchange one for some flowers; for bread is food for the body, but flowers are food for the mind.'

Among several very fair paintings at the Institute, we yesterday noticed with satisfaction the 'Portrait of a Gentleman,' No. 19—'Portrait of a Child,' No. 31—the 'Kitchen Bail at White Sulphur Springs'—Mr. Fisher's 'Portrait of a Lady,' and Mr. Rogers's two 'Landscapes.5 Doubtless there were others worthy of particular commendation, but our limited time, (many had been taken away, too, as the Exhibition closes to–day) prevented our making a fuller examination. . . . . The old 'Snow Scene, Brooklyn thirty years ago,'6 —a regular 'feature' in these Exhibitions—stood out in as bold relief as ever; and we paid due respect to it. Perhaps few things will be able to bring before the eyes and realization of the next race, the fact how rapidly Brooklyn has 'went' in the progress of improvement, more fully than this well delineated picture.

We commend these Exhibitions—and hope the spirit which prompts them will increase and multiply in Brooklyn. We wish some plan could be formed which would result in a perpetual free exhibition of works of art here, which would be open to all classes.


1. The Brooklyn Institute, the city's leading cultural institution and a forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum, offered exhibitions of painting and sculpture as well as lectures on a variety of subjects ( [back]

2. Whitman reiterated this refrain often as part of his effort to nurture a greater fine art awareness. See, for example, "Polishing the 'Common People,'" March 12, 1846, Brooklyn Daily Eagle. [back]

3. L. H'Jousberry owned a music store at 26 Fulton Street. [back]

4. Jean Paul, born Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763–1825), was a German Romantic writer. The exact source of this attribution has not been found, but Whitman repeated it years later in conversation with Horace Traubel. See With Walt Whitman in Camden, October 29, 1891. [back]

5. Portrait of a Gentleman and Portrait of a Child have not been identified; Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, 1838, currently owned by the North Carolina Museum of Art, is the work of the German–born artist, Christian Friedrich Mayr (1803–1851); Mr. Fisher is possibly Alanson Fisher (1807–1884), a New York portrait painter; Mr. Rogers has not been identified. [back]

6. This painting, now known as Winter Scene in Brooklyn, ca. 1819–1820, was painted by Francis Guy (1760–1820) and acquired by the Brooklyn Institute, now the Brooklyn Museum, in 1846. Whitman again commented on the work in "Brooklyniana; A Series of Local Articles, on Past and Present, No. 3," December 28, 1861, Brooklyn Standard. [back]


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