Page 7

Bulletin Winter 2017 Vol. 8 No. 1

W I N T E R 2 0 1 7 5 Louise’s dream was bigger still. She wanted her students to experience contemporary art directly, not just through lectures, photographs, and slides. Thus began the College’s art collection. Through her vision Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Hopper, and George Bellows also became “teachers” at the College. Miss Louise did not want a gallery or a museum, however; she wanted the paintings that were bought to be in the lounges, hallways, and study areas so that the women lived with them as a part of their everyday lives. But Miss Louise had still more plans, and these reveal that we have to be careful in what we imagine her purposes were in promoting the study of art. If we imagine that her interest in art was that it served some kind function as a part of the “finishing” of the students’ education so that they could become gentile ladies, we would be wrong. For in addition to adding art to the curriculum, and in addition to seeing that the women at the College lived in the presence of great contemporary art, she also took her students to New York City to see artists working in their studios and to talk with them about their work. She also invited these same artists to the College to be present when their work was chosen for the annual exhibitions of contemporary art from which the purchases for the collection were made. Her desire to introduce the students to art had no element of dilettantism to it. Her purpose was not to create women protected from the world, but rather to make sure that her charges were fully acquainted with the world and the ideas that animated the artists’ work. The first purchase from the annual exhibitions, George Bellows’s Men of the Docks, provides a wonderful illustration. The students apparently liked Bellows very much, and they loved his painting. But Bellows’s painting is not simply a “beautiful” painting of the New York skyline or the Hudson River. Let us reflect for a moment on exactly what Miss Louise had introduced her students to in introducing them to George Bellows’s painting. Although the painting is not “pretty,” it is visually stunning. With the golden Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, the painting shows a group of longshoremen and their dray horses working on a snow-covered dock with a huge luxury liner looming above them. Bellows’s use of color increases the force of his gritty realism, while evoking the way a snowy day can hang on the cusp between being miserable and beautiful. But the painting also asks us important questions about contemporary society, particularly about inequality and fairness. We know that Bellows was committed to issues of social justice, such as fair working conditions for laborers,


Bulletin Winter 2017 Vol. 8 No. 1
To see the actual publication please follow the link above