Daily dispatches from the art world seldom have anything to do with everyday life. This month, though, Art News plugged a story about 1907 painting indirectly into the 2022 midterm election. Oddly, a more direct connection went unnoticed. (More about that in a moment).

The early 20th-century painting “Election Night” by John Sloan celebrates the event on Nov. 5 in Herald Square, New York City. On the ballot were judges of the Court of Appeals and members of the State Assembly.

By the look of the scene that Sloan painted, voting in his day was no gentlemen’s agreement.

And, according to entries in his diary book, the tumult in the scene is no exaggeration.

Sloan wrote that when he took a walk in Herald Square on the afternoon of Election Day, he saw boys searching for fuel for fires they planned on setting that night.

After supper, Sloan went out for a walk again and saw what he described as “noisy trumpet blowers, confetti throwers, and the ticklers,” which were feather dusters extended on a stick for men to push in the faces of women and for women to push in the faces of men.

As for those fires being prepped earlier, Sloan spotted “a big election bonfire on Seventh Avenue with a policeman trying to keep its creators from adding fuel.”

Meanwhile, back in Herald Square: It’s not clear why women were being attacked with feather dusters since they didn’t even have the vote for another 13 years.

Silence of the lambs

But one thing is clear. Compared to the rough mob in Sloan’s painting, today’s campaigners seem quiet as lambs. Art News interpreted the actions of several raging figures without even a nod to how they also speak for our own time.

I’m talking in particular of the woman in a bright red dress bent forward with a tickler in hand.

Art News says she looked “as if to shout something to a friend in the crowd.” The magazine also sees her hand “shooing away the grinning man behind her who is showering her with a handful of confetti.

But wait. Seeing this same action through the lens of 2022 – after the U.S. Supreme Court rescinded the constitutional right to choose – turns the aggressive-looking woman in red into someone acting out her anger over losing a right.

Odd that the magazine didn’t see that.

Art News also points out what it calls a “mysterious man wearing a derby facing away from the viewer,” saying this was odd given his prominence in the painting.

But the man in the derby indifferent to the scene doesn’t seem odd at all if you look at him from a 2022 perspective. He could be an icon of the U.S. Supreme Court turning its back on women, indifferent to settled law and unwilling to face the consequences of its action.

Happy days?

Sloan characterized the hostile air of “Election Night” as “a good-humored crowd.” Really, John? You see the humor in the shoving of feather dusters in people’s faces?

It’s hard to see why Sloan would have enjoyed seeing what looks like hostility. But then again, all Art News saw is the woman in red as fending off confetti.