Art Out Of The Attic

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Along with their rusty bedsprings, broken chairs, and other relics, the attics, closets, basements, and barns in this country are stuffed with pictorial surprises. Some of them are, very occasionally, works of real art, but most are the humble efforts of local or itinerant painters of the past who preserved on canvas the faces of families and friends or the simple events of daily life. Usually it is in old houses that these treasures of a younger America are found, and for years they have been neglected by scholars and left to gather dust, their stories hidden as well. Not too long ago, however, the Vermont Council on the Arts decided to gather such works then in the hands of residents of the state. Researchers collected and photographed nearly three hundred paintings, which reflect a wide variety of subjects and artistic skills. The resulting exhibition of seventy-odd paintings in the fall of 1970 was entitled “Art Out of the Attic.” Now, with the Vermont experience as a guide, the Smithsonian Institution has announced a nationwide “Bicentennial Inventory of American Paintings Executed before 1914.” Under, one hopes, some catchier title a major exhibition will be mounted in 1976, and the Smithsonian would be delighted if it were to inspire regional groups to present similar shows. In its own small way A MERICAN H ERITAGE has been playing picture detective for almost two decades, and so we are pleased to present on the following pages a selection of thirteen of the works that were uncovered by our fellow sleuths in Vermont.

—Carla Davidson