PRINT December 1962/January 1963

The Arts of Man

AREA VISITORS HAVE CLOSED RANKS in record numbers with the homeguard, all passing in proud review through “The Arts of Man” exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The never-again collection of the rare and the beautiful ranges 5,000 years of man’s visual arts expression, but in horizontally re­lated chronology for a change, and will remain on exhibition until December 31.

Although well over 100 items came from important Dallas collections, the bulk derived as follows, by categories: From New York, Museum of Primitive Art (Oceanic and Pre-Columbian objects), Guggenheim Museum (modern European painting), Cooper Union Museum (textiles) and Morgan Library (Old Master drawings and early illuminated manuscripts). Other major lenders include Yale University Art Gallery (early American silver), Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Greek and Roman sculpture, Egyptian and Asiatic art), Harvard University’s Fogg Museum (European paintings and drawings) and Peabody Museum of Archaeology (Central American and American Indian items), John Woodman Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, Mass. (European and Oriental armor), Uni­versity of Pennsylvania Museum (Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Greco-Roman objects), Chicago Art In­stitute (European painting), University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (Egyptian and Near Eastern items), Kansas City’s Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum (Chinese objects, European pottery), Baltimore’s Wal­ters Gallery (medieval objects and sculpture).

Dealers who contributed choice fare––all from New York––include the Ancient Art Gallery, the Andre Em­merich Gallery, Carlebach Gallery, French and Com­pany, Heermaneck Galleries (Mr. and Mrs. Heermaneck also proffered rare pieces from their own famed pri­vate collection), Knoedler and Company, Komor Gal­lery, Paul Drey Gallery, Ralph M. Chait Galleries, Stolper Galleries of Primitive Arts, Wildenstein and Company, and World Antiquities, Ltd. Dallas contribu­tors were Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark (Renoir, Degas), Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Isenberg (Sir Thomas Lawrence), Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Mayer (Brue­ghel), Calvin J. Holmes (Rembrandt).

The most extensive gathering in effort in DMFA’s history could well be the last of its type, as shipping and insurance costs spiral ever up and museums understandably grow ever more reluctant to part with their finest treasures for such long periods. In this instance, by mid-November some 50 paintings and drawings alone were shipped back to their owners as agreed, and equally important reinforcements took up their positions within the thematic-historic context: approximately 400 8.C. to early 20th century, with Picasso elected as the not-too-arbitrary terminus for painting.

Like most regional museums, DMFA is still too young and limited in collecting to compete with the world’s great museum collections and so must bor­row afield to do any sort of justice to any home­-assembled show of scope, inescapably so for one of this magnitude. At the same time, how else to meet the challenge of broad public exposure to man’s artistic achievements, coordinately surveyed?

The tremendous achievement represented by this enfolding spread––on all planes of meaning and being––justifies without qualification every step and ex­pense, positive or negative, that has marked the course of Dallas’ only public, tax-supported museum since its birth. That’s highest praise admittedly, but “The Arts of Man” is a surcharged lesson for any to profit from in what organization and planning can make of the esthetically visible. Especially so when goals and objectives are clearly defined for doers and viewers alike, along with sufficient means and energies of flesh and mind dedicated to their proper re­alization. All of us see too many examples of lofty ambitions earthbound by insufficiencies of whatever sort. Not this one.

Contents aside, this collection’s triumph is wonder­fully basic. It does no more than is necessary, nor less, to advance its sweeping thesis of man’s evolution in the visual arts as relationships in history, chrono­logically horizontal. This change of historic reference and integrations from the vertical to the horizontal in time alone is both refreshing as enlightenment and the more pertinent to what has been attempted.

Of the contents, those who amassed them did so with such care that even so broad a perspective has gained more balance and internal-external radiance as creative education than might have been possible with merely more “things.” What a disastrous clut­ter it might have been had it turned falsely self­-promotional.

The inspiration of man’s dogged survival, as re­flected by his arts and in spite of himself or them, gives “The Arts of Man” a borealis of meaning to warm not art-lovers alone, but any and all who ac­knowledge that the sustenance for man’s tomorrow­––whatever it may be––must be drawn from man’s past and present.

And what a calming lesson it teaches in the shifty realms of taste and stylistic extremes! No matter how far out man’s visual experiments thrust, nor how many esthetic dead-ends he backs into and sometimes out of, time and the mainstream of his own creative universals somehow keep saving him from the ex­tremes in any stylistic or academic direction––and still enriches the whole with whatever it has to con­tribute before it is assimilated.

For all this, Dallas and its public museum forces have done themselves memorably proud.

Rual Askew