Reading Walter Friedlaender's "David to Delacroix" for my Romanticism course I came across what he calls the "Grandfather Law."
"The governing principle involved here- as is so often the case with the evolution of art forms- is, so to speak, the "grandfather law." A generation consciously and bitterly negates the efforts of its elders and returns to the tendencies of a preceding period."
Quite by chance I had stumbled across an article on the New York artist Jacob Collins to whom the "grandfather law" seems to be especially relevant. A scion of a family of art scholars and artists, his great-uncle was the late Meyer Schapiro whose name will be familiar to students of impressionism and modern art, though MS also is famous for work on the medieval and renaissance periods too. So the elders in this case seem to be the modern artists and critics, including Schapiro, against whom the young new old masters are rebelling- quite amusing.
Collins runs an atelier, mind, not a studio whose function is to teach the methods and techniques of the old masters to his students, some of who have thrown away their graffiti spray cans on seeing the light of Michelangelo and neo-classical artists like Pierre Prudhon. Half teaching space, half youth club, Collin's atelier has its own regimen and discipline right down to cleaning duties and "library maintenance", ensuring that classical music is played 2/3s of the time; to satiate the ears of head-banging youth however, Guns and Roses and their noisy ilk seem to fill out the rest of the time. Study of the old masters and sculpture is encouraged, and students have to familiarise themselves with anatomy when drawing and painting the body. Magazines on the fine arts and connoisseurship are in evidence, (not the likes of Modern Art Quarterly) and students are gently pointed in the direction of web sites like the Art Renewal Centre.
"Indeed, if anything, Collins’s atelier can resemble a youth club, with group instructions tacked to the wall: “Grease trap cleaning; Music library maintenance—make sure classical music is playing 2/3 of the day.” His students often live hand to mouth, waiting tables, selling a painting or two when they can. They have little connection with students in mainstream university art programs such as Yale and the Art Institute of Chicago, where, they say, an MFA is the new MBA. Some come to Collins merely to learn lost technique, but most take on the movement’s paradoxical self-segregation. They become radicals by despising the avant-garde. They forgo the lingua franca of photography and of video, conceptual, and installation art while dismissing the celebrity of young art stars like the late Dash Snow. (“A complete charlatan,” St. John says, “like a magician who doesn’t do any tricks.”) Instead, they try to paint like the nineteenth-century landscape painter Frederic Church, or like Bouguereau, the French technician who depicted gamins and angels and became the bugaboo of the Impressionists. But, like Collins, they don’t just want to paint like the pre-modernists; they also want to live like them."
This kind of artistic rebellion is part of the "classical realism" movement, though that label is despised by its exponents. I don't know what to call this kind of art; but looking at Collin's website, I note an uneasy morganatic marriage of academicism and photographic realism, which has its devotees who buy his pictures. Good luck to him, but though it's competent and, assured I have no appetite for re-invented or re-claimed old masters or pre-modern masters when I can look at the real thing.
But I am intrigued by this attempt to turn the clock back to, say, about 1880, and set up Bouguereau (above) and co in the place of whatever passes for contemporary art in New York these days. That’s been happening since the 1980s …...
“If I could be born again and choose what I should be in my next existence, I should desire to be a man of science- not accidentally but by nature, inevitably a man of science…The only thing that might make me hesitate would be an offer by fate of artistic genius..There is no such thing as progress in art. Every artist begins at the beginning. The man of science, on the other hand, begins where his predecessors left off…The man of science provides the experience that changes the ideas of the race.” Aldous Huxley, “A Night at Pietramala” in Along the Road, 1925.
I found myself pondering Huxley’s thoughts during my current research for my next course- European Romantic 19th Century painting. If ever this question of scientific verses artistic destiny, not to mention their benefits, were appropriate, it would surely emerge in that era. This is the time of the great contest between Blake and the demiurgic scientist Newton, who the former regarded as the personification of the mechanistic universe. Then there’s the more obscure Danish artist, Carstens. His "Birth of Light" is a rare subject, to say the least. Fine family group composed of Michelangelo and Raphael inspired figures. But its origins lie in a Phoenician creation myth about the genesis of light, but given that it was conceived in the time of the Enlightenment, surely there is a reference to science and cosmology too.
Huxley agonised on the desirability of coming back as a scientist rather than an artist. In artists like Carstens, maybe the two dispositions combine in one? Doubtless this topic will be conspicuously present in the next course which partly deals with the artistic rebellion in an age of scientific advancement.
“Gall and Mesmer have given place to Freud. Fillippo Lippi once had a bump of art, He is now an incestuous homosexualist with a bent towards anal-eroticism. Can we doubt any longer that human intelligence progresses and grows greater? Fifty years hence what will be the current explanation of Fillippo Lippi?” Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves.
One of Lawrence’s greatest friends was the novelist and polymath Aldous Huxley who spent time in Italy with the Lawrence’s and was there, along with his wife Maria, at the bedside of D.H. when he died in 1930 at Vence of tuberculosis. In addition to writing essays on art, Huxley published several novels in which his capacious knowledge of Italian art is on show. Huxley was also known to Kenneth Clark who wrote a glowing tribute for AH’s memorial novel in which the art historian identified the novelist’s ability to mentally cross- associate ideas and impressions, in Clark’s words: “the range, the confluence of associations, the power of speedy cross-classification." Huxley knew Italy and its art well and stayed in Florence for a time, though he wasn’t a member of Berenson’s court since he disliked the culture of connoisseurship. Huxley’s third novel, Those Barren Leaves, (1925) is set far away from Florence, in a glorious palace owned by Mrs Aldwinkle (a wicked parody of his patron Lady Ottoline Morel) on a hill overlooking the northern town of Vezza. Here the cultural elite talk about art, philosophy and other subjects. The novel ends with a frantic car journey down through Tuscany, Umbria and onto Rome with many works of art featuring on the trip including a mummy at Volterra, the Volumni tombs in Perugia, the Giottos at Assisi and Fillippo Lippi’s frescoes at Spoleto (above), where Huxley’s mental cross-association is clearly evident in the quotation above. Evoking fashionable Freudian interpretations of Lippi, Huxley immediately playfully mocks them in his customary role of erudite, omniscient narrator. In the same year Huxley also published his collection of essays on travel and art, Along the Road, which contained the important essay on Piero della Francesca which as we have seen was read avidly by young art historians like Clark and John Pope-Hennessy. In the same volume is an account of the famous horse race, the Palio at Siena which doesn’t seem to have filled Huxley with much enthusiasm. Palios weren’t confined to Siena however, and we can see the Ferrarese artist Francesca Cossa paints a race for the Palazzo Schifanoia in that city which Huxley doesn’t mention. One suspects that John Mortimer drew on Huxley’s Palio essay for a scene in his novel Summer’s Lease mentioned earlier in the course.
 Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, (Chatto and Windus, 1925), 256-257.
Lady Chatterley’s Villa: D H. Lawrence in Tuscany.
“It’s lovely, when one can see far, far, and on the plain the city so alone, so feminine, and on the hills the villas, white or pink, and again and again the cypresses, like black shadow-flames crowding together. This is Tuscany, and nowhere are the cypresses so beautiful and proud, like black flames from primeval times, before the Romans had come, when the Etruscans were still here, slender and fine and still and with naked elegance, black haired with narrow feet.” Letter, September, 1921.
The famous author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) sought solace in travel, especially warm climes like Italy which helped sooth his restless personality and assuage his craving for the primitive and wild. As Francesca Pieri notes, Lawrence travelled widely in Italy, but was particularly fond of Tuscany. Lawrence’s love of the Florentine countryside prompted him to the Villa Mirenda in Scandicci from May 1926 to June 1928. There he wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover and travelled to the surrounding Etruscan areas, such as Volterra, and more close to hand Fiesole. As Pieri says, “in Lawrence’s eyes Tuscany appeared as a beautiful place which emblematically condensed the elements of the two fundamental dichotomies of town verses country, and culture verses nature: the first pair of opposites [were] linked with the monuments and museums of Florence, and the second with the countryside surrounding the city.” Lawrence’s alter-ego in the novel Aaron’s Rod (1922) marvels at the green of the Tuscan countryside and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus and Michelangelo’s David, which was actually the subject of an essay by Lawrence which he saw as a symbol of the “flowery town,” the antithesis of stony Volterra where Lawrence admired the Etruscan museum. As to art museums in Florence, Lawrence seems to have had problems with the Uffizi (“It is quite magnificent of course, but ten minutes is enough”), but he was enchanted by the “air and sea-clean purity of Botticelli’s Venus.” Interestingly in this essay, Lawrence compared Michelangelo’s David with Cellini’s Perseus, a statue derided by the protagonist of Aaron’s Rod: “Benvenuto Cellini’s dark hero looked female, with its plump hips and his waist, female and rather insignificant: graceful, and rather vulgar.”
 Francesca Pieri, “This is Tuscany and Nowhere are the Cypresses so Beautiful”: D.H. Lawrence’s Travels to Florence, Scandicci, and Volterra” in Travels and Translations: Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions, (ed), Alison Yarrington, Stefani Villani, and Julia Kelly (Rodolpi, 2005), 134-148.
 Some claim that Frieda Lawrence was the model for Lady Chatterley since she had an affair with the landlord of Villa Mirenda, Richard Owen, D. H. Lawrence on the Italian Riviera, (Uni of Chicago Press, 2014).
 Lawrence, “Looking Down on the City” in Sketches.
“Clark’s youthful self-assurance and aloofness would not have been a discouragement for Berenson: aloofness was one of his own notable characteristics. Equally, the rich, the well-bred and the good-looking held a perpetual fascination for him, as did clever, articulate, Oxford-educated Anglo-Saxons.” Robert Cumming, editor of My Dear BB.
Last year saw the publication of the correspondence (lasting 34 years) between Berenson and Sir Kenneth Clark, which some have seen as “a substitute for a friendship that didn’t happen.” As Cumming observes, the jeunesse d’oree of educated Anglican upper middle class Englishmen, of which Clark was a glaring example, fascinated Berenson who was a Lithuanian Jew from a modest background. Berenson’s fascination with Anglo art historians like Clark and many others may explain why they were welcomed into his circle. Many of them benefited greatly from the trails of renaissance art blazed by the Prospero of I Tatti. Clark was introduced to Berenson by Charles F. Bell, Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmoleon, in Florence in 1925. Clark was immediately enthralled by Berenson whose glittering circle in addition to aesthetes and art historians would have consisted of writers like Edith Wharton (with whom Clark struck up a firm friendship), Vernon Lee, (the author of Renaissance Fancies and horror stories) and the doomed architect Geoffrey Scott who seems to have played Valmont to Mary Berenson’s Marquise de Merteuil in their correspondence. Though still a student at Oxford, Clark assisted Berenson with the revision of the latter’s corpus of Florentine drawings. Clark worked for Berenson for over two years, honing his connoisseurship skills in Italian museums and in Berenson's library of I Tatti. He married his Oxford classmate Elizabeth Winifred "Jane" Martin (1902-1976) in 1927. Despite concentration on Italian Renaissance painting, particularly Piero della Francesca on whom he published a book in 1951, Clark's first book was a suggested topic of Bell's, The Gothic Revival, published in 1928, an expansion of Bell's numerous notes on the topic. Clark's work with Berenson resulted in a 1929 commission to catalogue the rich holdings of Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts at Windsor castle (published 1935). But it was Piero della Francesca who was the Tuscan painter that most engrossed Clark, even to the extent of likening the landscape in Australia to a Piero della Francesca, a comparison which greatly intrigued Berenson! As Angeria Rigomonti di Cutò says, “Clark’s account of Australia greatly interested Berenson, who believed aboriginal art to be “uncontaminated” by external influences and thus purer than western art could be, much as he maintained for years that Chinese art was more inherently spiritual than any European art, with the possible exception of Sienese painting.” And in fact in another letter, Clark likened the Ajanta cave paintings in India to Sienese art. Clark would eventually make the journey from Berenson-trained connoisseur to broadcaster and populariser through the legendary Civilisation series in which he is full of praise for centres of humanist tranquillity like Florence, Urbino, and Tuscan art in general.
My Dear BB: The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark, 1925–1959, Robert Cumming, (ed), (Yale University Press, 2015).
 See Duncan Falloway, “The private aesthete and the public servant”, review, The Spectator, April, 2015.
 Richard M. Dunn, Geoffrey Scott and the Berenson Circle: Literary and Aesthetic Life in the Early 20th Century. Lewiston, UK: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.
 Piero della Francesca was disregarded throughout the nineteenth-century. See references in Haskell, Rediscoveries.
The Promised Land of Art: Bernard Berenson and Tuscany.
“..let us note what results clearly even from this brief account of the Florentine school, namely that, although no Florentine merely took up and continued a predecessor’s work, nevertheless all, from first to last, fought for the same cause. There is no opposition between Giotto and Michelangelo. The best energies of the first, of the last, and of all the intervening great Florentine artists were persistently devoted to the rendering of tactile values, or of movement, or of both. Because of this fact, Florentine painting, despite its many faults, is, after Greek sculpture, the most serious figure art in existence.” Bernard Berenson, Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Vol. 2.
Bernard Berenson first entered Italy in 1888, an intelligent and ambitious European Jew transplanted to the blue-blooded groves of Harvard where he came into contact with the Bostonian elite. Yet, he was still a financially strapped scholar existing on stipends and handouts from rich friends like Isabel Stewart Gardner. Berenson eventually made his home at Villa I Tatti (Settignano) which he would give to his alma mater, Harvard in the hope it would become a humanist centre. Villa I Tatti became, in the words of Sydney Freedberg “a monument to himself and what he had accomplished.” This achievement was the mapping of the whole of Italian renaissance painting, tracking down neglected pictures in churches and halls, creating an overview of the schools and movements in Italian renaissance art, building on scholars who had gone before like Morelli and Crowe and Cavalcaselle. There was a dubious dimension to the modern humanist court of Villa I Tatti however, since it was kept financially afloat by the murky dealings of Joseph Duveen who sold artworks that Berenson had authenticated, sometimes optimistically. And it is now known that his wife Mary wrote many of his articles which BB signed. Many of these merchandised pictures would have been specimens of Florentine and Central Italian painting, Berenson’s main focus since he downgraded the Venetians to below the Florentines. The essence of Berenson’s thoughts on Tuscan art are contained in his volume on Central Italian painting in which he considers the three main Tuscan schools: Florence, Siena, and Umbria. The first is beyond reproach; the second is judged variable in quality; and the third is seen as a weak tributary of the second. In fact Berenson’s preferences can be detected in the organisation of this volume: the first chapter is allocated to Florence; the rest of the volume considers “Central Italian Painting.” After Berenson completed his essay on Venetian painters in 1894, he embarked on the essay on Florentine painters, published in 1896. Unlike the Venetian essay, which suffers from being too much in the shadow of Ruskin, Berenson used his Florentine essay to launch a number of ideas, most notably tactile values and the spectator, heavily under the influence of Nietzsche who he had read at Harvard. Then, the concept was linked with the figurative: the two dimensional character of painting being supplemented by a third dimension, which the viewer could imagine, if he or she looked as Berenson did. However, Berenson didn’t confine himself to figurative art; he also extended his concept to landscape. Sometimes, when describing figurative art and landscape, Berenson’s prose takes on a decidedly Nietzschean cast, as when, for example, he describes Christ and the Apostles in Masaccio’s Tribute Money (above) as a race of supermen fit to inhabit the new earth (actually Masolino’s mountainous landscape) that the painter has prepared for them. “Then what strength to his young men, and what gravity and power to his old! How quickly a race like this would possess itself of the earth, and brook no rivals but the forces of nature”! The exclamation marks have a Nietzschean flavour about them too! Amongst Masaccio’s “heirs” Berenson seems to have had a soft spot for Domenico Veneziano whose Madonna is shown next to BB in a famous photograph of the aesthete.
 Sydney J. Freedberg, “Some Thoughts on Berenson, Connoisseurship, and the History of Art,”: I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance, Vol. 3 (1989), pp. 11-26, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.
 Berenson, Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Vol 2: Florentine and Central Italian Schools, 1952, 14.
“the traveller [to Italy] should consider this building [Abbey of San Marco] as one of the main objects for which he visits Florence.” Mariana Starke, Letters from Italy.
Sometime before Baedeker and the Michelin guides came on the scene, there were the travel writings of Mariana Starke. Her Letters from Italy were published between 1792 and 1798, and in addition to commenting on the art, she gave information about the political situation, hotels, money etc. With her husband Mariana visited Tuscany, particularly Pisa and Florence. Sadly, her husband Richard died in Pisa on 5th March 1794; he was buried at Livorno. As Francis Haskell says, Letters from Italy was meant as “a guide to others than as a record of personal experiences.” What was most notable about Mariana’s guides was her use of exclamation marks, initially purely subjective, but later systematized to denote her opinion of a picture or statue. The edition of 1825 contains two references to the Beato Giovanni Angelico’s paintings at San Marco, one with exclamation mark. For Haskell this represented a concession to new tastes. This was retained for the final edition in 1839 where the visitor to San Marco is advised “the traveller [to Italy] should consider this building as one of the main objects for which he visits Florence.” The spirit of Mariana’s guides, though not necessarily the letter, was continued in the John Murray Handbook for Travellers in Northern Italy, which was written by Sir Francis Palgrave and published anonymously in 1842. Unlike Starke, Palgrave, foreshadowing Berenson a hundred years later complimented the quattrocento and played down the significance of the later periods that followed the death of Michelangelo. As Palgrave states: “Since the death of Mrs Starke, her popular work, has owing to the rapid change of circumstances, become in a measure antiquated for the districts before mentioned (Tuscany and N. Italy).” It was in this period of the early nineteenth-century that Verlag Karl Baedeker founded his celebrated, indispensable series of guides for businessmen, tourists, and travellers in general. These contained/contain maps and introductions; information about routes and travel facilities; and descriptions of noteworthy buildings, sights, attractions and museums, written by specialists. The only difference between Baedeker and Starke is that she was the sole author and she used exclamation marks instead of stars to mark items worthy of interest.
 Cited in Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art: Some aspects of taste, fashion and collecting in England and France, (Phaidon, 1976)s, 170.
Cordiality between the British and Tuscany dates back to the late 17th century where it is stressed that the Grand Duke Cosimo III is well disposed towards the British. Cosimo had visited England in 1668-9. However, the end of the Medici dynasty in 1737 led to the absentee rule of Francis Stephen, later Holy Roman Emperor followed in 1765 by Duke Peter Leopold who became head of Florence, an appointment that met with British approval. Amongst his other deeds, Duke Peter opened up the Lawrentian library (designed by Michelangelo) to visitors, as we learn from the travel journal of the artist John Flaxman who visited Florence with his wife on the way home from Rome in 1787. British artists like Flaxman spent some time in the Medici Chapel as we can see from his sketchbook which has drawings of Michelangelo’s sculpture from the Medici chapel in San Lorenzo. To the British, Florence was a “home from home” as we can see in the writings of travellers like Miller, Piozzi and Jane and John Flaxman who have favourable things to say about the good catering and living in Florence. British tourists remarked on the “good figure” of the houses and buildings in Florence. And what we could call the “Florentine aesthetic” compared favourably with the baroque curves and columns of Rome and Naples. This view had been propagated by Joseph Addison and Edward Wright whose opinions were echoed later in the century by other travellers such as Nugent and Northall. The facades of the palazzi and fronts in the Tuscan or “rustic” order were especially admired by the British because of their perceived similarity to the Palladian style which had been made fashionable in England by the Earl of Burlington.