JULY 30, 1955
HYDE PARK—I recently quoted a poem in this column, called "Song of Peace," by Lloyd Stone, thinking that it had never been in print. I am now told that I should have given credit to the Lorenz Publishing Company as they had copyrighted it in 1934. They would have been glad to have me publish it and give them credit for it, which I am now doing, and I only regret that I did not do it at the proper time.
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The usual summer institute which Dr. Mary Langmuir conducts at Vassar College again has been successfully carried on during the past weeks and one night this week I had the pleasure of meeting with the group. I found as in past years that their questions are intelligent ones and show a great interest in the world situation.
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The other day I received a copy of a speech made in the House of Representatives by the Congressman Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey on the subject of an advertisement that appeared in most of the New York newspapers and which contained an editorial by Huntington Hartford.
The advertisement attacked American art criticism, abstract art, the contemporary theater, art dealers and museum officials and the public. Only a man with great wealth could have published this editorial and reached thousands of people with his opinions in an effort to put across his point of view with the hope of preventing the development of such art as he disliked.
President Eisenhower in a recent message congratulating the Museum of Modern Art on its 24th anniversary said, "There is an important principle which we should ever keep in mind—the principle that the freedom of the arts is a basic liberty, one of the pillars of liberty in our land."
We may not like or understand some of the experiments made by modern artists but they have a right to experiment. Art dealers and museums should exhibit their art and the public in the long run will make the decision of whether the art is good or bad.
What the President has said stresses a position that is basic to our freedoms.
Congressman Thompson says, "New ideas and experimentation are essential to art and to democracy. We must guard our freedoms jealously, for it is these very freedoms that differentiate our form of government from communism, Nazism and Fascism."
Undoubtedly, young Mr. Hartford, in writing his editorial, was expressing a certain reaction, and he had certainly not thought through all the implications in trying to buy public opinion by printing an advertisement of this kind. True, we sell products in this way and we try truthfully to say what they contain, and urge the public to buy. Mr. Hartford may well have thought we should sell ideas in the same way.
Ideas, however, require more careful handling, and the channels of communication should be free to all points of view, so that those who differ from our point of view may be able to reach the same public that we reach. In the case we are considering it seems to me that this fairness of presenting ideas freely has not been achieved.