Aside from the almost comically anatomically incorrect shark, the aspect of John Singleton Copley’s 1778 painting Watson and the Shark that most catches my eye is the black seaman standing in the boat watching the shark attack unfold before him. With Watson and the shark forming the bottom two points of a triangle, the black figure crowns the peak. Copley originally painted a white seaman with long, flowing hair in that place, but changed to the black figure for the final painting. A copy of Copley’s painting appears in the newly opened Art of the Americas wing of the Museum of the Fine Arts, Boston (exterior view above). Just as Copley reordered the world of his painting and included the often excluded black face, the MFA reorders the world of their American art collection and goes global—mingling more than 5,000 works of art from North, Central, and South America arranged chronologically on four gorgeously redesigned floors. Works often relegated to special sections or (even worse) storerooms, find reintegration into the mainstream flow of art history in an almost sneak attack on the senses. This new world order of the American art world reflects the new reality of modern America. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "New World Order."
[Image: © Nigel Young/Foster + Partners.]
[Many thanks to the Museum of the Fine Arts, Boston for providing me with the image above and other press materials related to the opening of their new Art of the Americas wing. Short videos of the new MFA are available on their YouTube channel.]