Art: Toward the Ideal

Reporting on the U.S. of the early 1830s as seen through his shrewd Gallic eyes, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans tended in their attitude toward the arts to "put the real in place of the ideal." That has always been true of the interior of the White House. First occupied in 1800, when the nation was still in its raw infancy, when Washington, D.C., was a muddy village with a few thousand inhabitants, the White House has, through the changing decades, served its practical functions as residence and office for the President. What...

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