We are Truly Thankful for Artists
by Clint Watson on 11/22/2006 11:09:37 AM
Left: The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (1863–1930)
A man and his rag-tag band of followers gather to break bread and share a meal. They start the meal by giving thanks.
stern group of prude Puritans in proto-Massachusetts congregate to
share a meal with the native people. Legend has it that they gave
thanks. They were probably thankful that they even made it across the
Atlantic in a rickety old ship. . . they were thankful to be alive.
the American Revolution George Washington, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in
December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the
British at Saratoga. Thanksgivings were held off and on for several
years, the Americans had, after all, defeated the world’s foremost
During the War Between the States, each side would
proclaim days of "thanksgiving," declaring themselves to be the
superior military might. After each battle of Bull Run - which sent the
Yanks running back across the Mason-Dixon - the Confederates proclaimed
days of thanksgiving. But, not to be outdone, Lincoln, after the battle
of Gettysburg, decided to set a firm date: Thanksgiving was set for the
last Thursday in the month of November, commemorating the great
Franklin D. Roosevelt arrives, at the height
of the Great Depression, determined to remake the world and save
humanity, and overrides Lincoln, moving Thanksgiving to the next to
last Thursday in November. In Roosevelt’s day, it was considered to be
in very poor taste to advertise Christmas merchandise before
Thanksgiving and he wanted to give the cash-strapped merchants an extra
week to sell their goods.
In 1941, the US Congress codified
Thanksgiving as we know it today: The fourth Thursday in November,
which is sometimes the last Thursday and sometimes the second to last
Why do we present our brief history of Thanksgiving here, in our art space?
because our mental images of most of these events and, indeed, most of
history comes to us through the hands of artists. We envision
Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, paintings of the Pilgrims, Washington
crossing the Delaware, and the Lincoln Memorial. We have you, dear
artist, to thank for all these images, all of these icons in our mind.
work transcends your studio and speaks to the world, to humanity, to
future generations. Your artwork moves our souls, brings us to laughter
and to tears.
So tomorrow we plan to enjoy time with friends and
family. But, as our relatives get tired, as the in-laws argue, as the
TV blares, and as the dishes pile up, we plan to lose ourselves in our
favorite paintings, sculpture and photographs. At that point, dear
artist, we plan to give thanks for you.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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