of artistic documentation whose workings few understood. Imagine the United States in the first third of the twentieth century, with illiteracy and poverty key defining characteristics of the pitiable lives led by you and most everyone you knew. Images had nearly the power and drama, then, that they did during the Counter-Reformation in Europe, when the Catholic Church fought back against dull Protestantism with paintings as theatrical as opera sets, their shadowy depths filled with depictions of gruesome martyrdom—lit only at the moment of a would-be saint’s transmutation from agonizingly human into gloriously divine. Radiant sculptural forms of gold and silver reflected not merely the material wealth but the spiritual wealth of a religion that had dominated that part of the world for roughly a millennium. Bring yourself back now, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century and from Europe to the United States, populated by the shell-shocked heroes of the Great War dancing with pretty little flappers, their bobbed hairdos gleaming, and the gangsters, with their molls, who kept the country’s beak wet during Prohibition; imagine, finally, on a late fall day in 1929, stock-market millions vanishing within hours, heartlessly slamming shut the doors to the anything-goes twenties. (While you’re at it, imagine the unthinkable: Wall Street investors with such an overwhelming sense of responsibility that they jumped out of skyscrapers rather than face their own— and their clients’—financial ruin. Incomprehensible!) Meanwhile, the Great Depression loomed in the drought-stricken plains of America’s heartland. In the mind’s eye, these times could only have existed in grayed-out shades of black and white. Color, it seems, had been forgotten.