Art: Museum Pieces, Homemade

In the early Machine Age days when most U.S. citizens were artists and craftsmen because they had to be, few of them thought much about art. They made quilts, candlesticks and rocking chairs beautiful out of respect for the crafts their parents had taught them plus an instinct for simple utility. This week 111 carefully detailed watercolors of their works went on view in Washington's National Gallery, labeled art with a capital A.

During the depression, some 1,000 WPA artists helped ferret the dusty, peeling masterpieces from Shaker barns, Manhattan antique shops, Southern California missions and New England historical societies, and sketched...

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