Editor’s Letter, May/June 2012

Elizabeth Pochoda

Elizabeth Pochoda Opinion

Starting out in the intoxicating decade of the 1920s, Antiques began by running against the rhythm of its times, celebrating tradition in a decade fueled by the Americanization of the avant garde and the arrival of mass culture in radio, music, and film. The 1920s also witnessed the founding of several other magazines more specifically attuned to the spirit of the age such as The Reader’s Digest, Time, and The New Yorker. None of this was lost on our first editor, the Bostonian Homer Eaton Keyes, who confessed that it was probably foolhardy to “totter forth into such an age” with a magazine about antiques. I’m not sure if those early issues “tottered,” but the magazine soon found its feet and moved them in step if not with the times then with a more expansive national spirit of the sort you find in Walt Whitman-the kind of spirit that is most American when it runs against the American grain, which is what we still do by emphasizing the presentness of the past.

We are a nation of unruly forces and unruly folks so while we celebrate our ninetieth anniversary let me suggest a vision of Antiques, that is also unruly or unexpected. This issue begins with a mem­oir by Tom Savage, who survived early adolescence as an avid reader of Antiques without suffering a schoolyard beating. I attribute this miracle to his charm, which even then must have impressed classmates in thrall to MAD and Playboy. In the ecumenical spirit of Whitman (“I am large. I contain multitudes”) we are pleased to join between our covers my favorite modernist, the scholarly col­lector John Waddell, and my favorite anti-modernist, American painting expert Alfred Harrison. We pair the stately rooms of blue chip Americana and Dutch paintings assembled by George and Linda Kaufman with an adventurous interior where the work of Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Urs Fischer, and Richard Prince meets fine eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts. What could be more radically American?

After the first publication of Leaves of Grass in 1855, Whitman revised, expanded, and otherwise messed with his poem in eight more editions. Out at the Huntington in California, a place that also contains multitudes, the legacy of Henry E. Huntington is proving similarly fertile ground for impro­visation and experiment. The Huntington is on the move. The seven remarkable artists who joined us there last fall appear in these pages to show us that the past has a bright future in American culture.

The ways works of art influence later ages are always different from the impact they have on their own, and the retrospective view of George Bellows in this issue is a fine illustration of that. Finally, we offer an exquisitely subtle speculation about Andrew Wyeth’s 1944 painting Night Hauling, link­ing Jackson Pollock, the film I Walked with a Zombie, Winslow Homer, and even Charles Lindbergh to unravel the strangeness of Wyeth’s work.

Let us in all this variety of what was and what is allow Whitman a summing up:

“Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined. The greatest poet forms the consistence of what is to be from has been and is… . He says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may realize you.”

That’s the idea here, as it has been from the beginning.