Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Yours Truly"

Letters quoted in text concerning Orozco painting in Baker LibraryWhen Jose Clemente Orozco created the stunning murals in Baker Library, concerned almuni and members of the public heaped criticism on President Ernest Hopkins for allowing such a thing to happen. For the most part, Hopkins courteously responded to the criticism. He supported the decision to bring Orozco to Dartmouth and defended the painting even though it expressed political views contrary to his own.

But one writer clearly got under his skin. A member of the National Arts Club wrote to Hopkins, "Does it seem fitting that in these times when American artists are starving that a College of the standing of Dartmouth College should go to Mexico for its Fresco--such monstrosities could as well be perpetrated by a disordered mind--in the United States?" The writer continued, "Are we training youth to deliberately cultivate all that is not moral or fine or beautiful? Why not run a sewer through your library--or hang mirrors to distort their reflection. The value in art is beauty--not this horrible stuff."

Hopkins, perhaps resenting that this letter came from someone not affiliated with Dartmouth, and also perhaps succumbing his gender bias, responded with curt furor:
I can reply very briefly and very definitely to the inquiries of your letter, that it is based on personal prejudice and unjustified presumptions. In view of the fact that I concede none of your premises upon which you base your argument, I naturally cannot have any interest in your conclusion.
He then jauntily signed off, "Yours truly."

To see the letters, ask for DP-11, Box 6928, Folder 14 (you'll find other critical letters there, with much friendlier replies).