60 years worth of letters, personal photographs and sketchbooks once belonging to painter and art critic Fairfield Porter can be viewed at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. Porter's calm but boldly colored paintings of interiors and landscapes are often compared to those of Vuillard (if Vuillard had lived in Maine and Southampton in the '50s and '60s and hung out with New York School poets). It's a wonderful compliment, but Porter moved in the same art world as the Abstract Expressionists, and though he found critical success there, he was often misunderstood for staying true to his Realist intuitions. Those intuitions revealed a genius for magically turning, say, a small breakfast into the most beautiful meal of the day, or an uneventful afternoon into a sunny archetype of American summer, and his sketchbooks reveal that the secret to that magic was practice, and lots of it.

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