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Pickett? Really?


Recently, paging happily through “The New Yorker Album of Art & Artists,”* I stopped to enjoy the classic Tobey cartoon after “The Sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau, c. 1897. I’d admired this many times before, but never bothered to notice the painting on the wall to the left.


It is “Manchester Valley” by Joseph Pickett (1849-1918). 

When discussing avant-garde art, the name of Joseph Pickett is not on every lip. But “Manchester Valley” is, in fact, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and hung in the museum’s 25th Anniversary Exhibition in 1954-55. It was on Floor 1: “CEZANNE THROUGH THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY”: Cezanne and his contemporaries; Seurat, Van Gogh, Gauguin; Ensor, Redon; Rousseau; Bonnard, Rouault; Prendergast; Matisse; The lesser “fauves”; Modigliani; Expressionism in Central Europe.

And Pickett. Who seems like odd company for those luminaries. The fact that it was a gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, a founder of MOMA, and wife of moneybags John D. Rockefeller, Jr., may have had something to do with its inclusion. In any case, there it was.

My parents saw that show, and picking through the competition, walked out with a reproduction of “Manchester Valley.” Which in the fullness of time came to me, and now, a bit darkened with age, still hangs in my house. An odd piece, but full of satisfactions. It holds up after all these years. Thus my interest, and how I can’t imagine how for so long I failed to notice it in the Toby.


*Published 1970. Heartily recommended. Pieces from The New Yorker’s great old cartoon days, riffing on art and art fashions from the ’40s through the ’60s. Available at for $4.64, the last time I looked.