Italy – Art and Travel

A recent series of lectures on the Renaissance and the Baroque sent me back to the art books again and connections to travel in Italy, transformative encounters with a slew of great artists and masterpieces, travel notebooks a storehouse of references, finding old photos to retrace the experience.
Arrived in Brindisi from Greece, part of my first trip overseas, a ten week trip around Europe in the northern Spring 1980. Caught a late evening over night train to Rome. Next day walked around, the Forum, Colosseum, Piazza Vanessa, the Pantheon sun shining brilliantly into the huge dome, Piazza della Rotonda, Trevi Fountain, everything shut between 1-4 pm for lunch and siesta, very civilised back then, then onto Via Veneto and later tour of Rome by night with some locals, best way to escape tourist hordes. St Peters Square at 2 am and a full moon, the Orange Garden overlooking the Tiber, magic. The next day the Vatican, and Sistine Chapel. Apparently Michelangelo insisted he was a sculptor not a painter and took on the commission begrudgingly1 but “in the final work, that would take four years, encompassed over 300 figures.” The Vatican Museum so overwhelming had to give up and move on. Then in the following days onto the National Museum, Basicilica of Santa Maria deli Angeli, Baths of Diocletian, Villa Borghese, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona, Piazza Barberini, Cemetery of the Capuchins with elaborate artwork made from monks’ skeletons, weird but with artistic flare and flair.
Train from Rome to Florence, three and half hours through the countryside in Spring, vineyards, snow on the mountain peaks, brilliant green. Florence packed with people and nowhere to stay, spent most of the night at the railway station along with hundreds of other travellers, people in sleeping bags, playing cards, harmonicas, even a banjo, it was a long night. Luckily found lodgings early the next day, then onto Pointe Vecchio, Pitti Palace. The Florence Cathedral overpowering, almost oppressively ornate, onto Galleria dell’Accademia and Michelangelo’s David and the Prisoners, the Uffizi, Academic Di Belle Arti, Piazza St Croce.
Next day train to Pisa and the Leaning Tower. Back then you could walk up the very worn marble stairs to the top with a view of the snow capped mountains. From there caught the train to Nice. In some ways it was a relief to escape the high art theatricality, celestial geometry, the swirling swooning vortices of saints, angels, putti, and the damned, an overload of masterpieces. Returned to Italy by train via Vienna in May. Arrived in Trieste, in the far north-east, and then train to Venice and the obligatory ferry ride down the main canal and onto Piazza St Marco, but, as always the place was overrun with tourists. After the onslaught of Renaissance art in Rome and Florence, it was a relief to find the explosion of modern art at the Guggenheim Gallery. Peggy Guggenheim had a colourful personal reputation and major achievements, she was a “visionary, art patron, collector, philanthropist, had a crucial role in the careers of Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and Clifford Still. The collection embraces all major movements since 1910 including Dada, Suprematist, Cubist, Surrealist and Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, and sculpture by Brancusi, Archipenko, Calder. Giacometti, Arp, Henry Moore”2 among many others (the website has the full list of works). It was an introduction and major educational experience in modern art all wrapped up in one gallery. After that art blast, a break via a day trip to Murano and huge range of handmade glass ware. Then travelled onwards down the Adriatic Coast to Ravenna, where our room was opposite an amusement park so caught the train to Bari the next day. It was pouring with rain so kept moving, to Brindisi to catch the ship to Corfu. Returned to Rome in September 1983, strolled around and revisited the major sites, including on my last day a trip to Capitoline Hill, and then it was Arrivederci, Roma.

Places
Rome
Florence
Pisa
Trieste
Venice
Ravenna
Brindisi

Memories of Time and Place

800403 Trevi Fountain, Rome
Rome 3/4/1980

Cemertery of the Capchins, 2nd Chapel, Rome (postcard copy)
Cemetery of the Capuchins, 2nd Chapel, Rome (postcard copy), 5/4/1980

800407 Florence
Florence, 7/4/1980

800407 Street scene Florence
Florence, 7/4/1980

800410 Leaning Tower of Pisa
Pisa, 10/4/1980

800410 View from the bell tower, Pisa
View from the bell tower, Pisa, 10/4/1980

830916 Spanish Steps, Rome
Spanish Steps, Rome, 16/9/1983

830916 Trevi Fountain, Rome
Trevi Fountain, Rome, 16/9/1983

830917 Piazza Nuvona, Rome
Piazza Navona, Rome, 17/9/1983

830917 Bernini Fountain, Piazza Nuvona, Rome
Piazza Navona, Rome, 17/9/1983

830917 Bridge of Angels, Rome
Bridge of Angels, Rome, 17/9/1983

830917 Some details, The Vatican, Rome
The Vatican, Rome, 17/9/1983

830918 Coloseum, Rome0002
Colosseum, Rome, 18/9/1983

830918 St Peters in the Field, Rome
St Peters in the Field, Rome, 18/9/1983

830918 The Forum, Rome
The Forum, Rome, 18/9/1983

830918 Villa Borgheze, Rome
Villa Borghese, Rome, 18/9/1983

830918 View from Mt Arentina, Rome
Rome, 18/9/1983

Art References

Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation, c1472
Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation, c1472

Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation (detail), c1472
Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation (detail), c1472

Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, Sistine Chapel, 1511
Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, Sistine Chapel, 1511

Parmigianino, Women Carrying Baskets and Amphorae
Francesco Mazzuola, called Parmigianino, Women Carrying Baskets and Amphorae, c1530, Janos Scholz Collection

Parmigianino, Profile di donna, Uffizi
Parmigianino, Profile di donna, Uffizi

Titian, Landscape with St. Theodore Overcoming the Dragon, ca. 1550s
Titian, Landscape with St. Theodore Overcoming the Dragon, ca. 1550s

Guercino, Landscape with Volcano0002
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino, Landscape with Volcano, ca. 1635-40

Claude Lorrain – drawings and paintings of the Roman Campagna (the countryside around Rome)3.

Claude Lorrain, View of Tivoli, 1640
Claude Lorrain, View of Tivoli, 1640

Claude Lorrain, View of La Crescenza, 1648-50
Claude Lorrain, View of La Crescenza, 1648-50

Canaletto – Venice became a ‘pictorial genre’, he surveyed the city to create memory of place, for the British grand tourists (starting arriving around 1726)4

Canaletto, The Grand Canal near the Ponte del Rialto (1725)
Canaletto, The Grand Canal near the Ponte del Rialto (1725)

Canaletto, Bacino di S Marco From the Piazzetta, c 1750
Canaletto, Bacino di S. Marco: From the Piazzetta, c. 1750

Turner made several trips Italy, including Venice first trip in 1819, second in 1833

Turner, Venice San Giorgio Maggiore Early Morning, 1819
Turner, Venice: San Giorgio Maggiore – Early Morning, 1819

Turner, Venice, a Storm, 1840
Turner, Venice, a Storm, 1840

Italian Futurists – light, movement and speed.

Boccioni (Umberto) States of Mind I The Farewells, 1911
Umberto Boccioni, States of Mind I: The Farewells, 1911

Balla (Giacomo) Swifts' Flight 1913
Giacomo Balla, Swifts’ Flight, 1913

The Guggenheim Collection, Venice
A selection

George Braque, The Clarinet (La Clarinette), 1912
George Braque, The Clarinet (La Clarinette), 1912

Marcel Duchamp, Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train, 1911
Marcel Duchamp, Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train, 1911

Vasily Kandinsky, Landscape with Red Spots, No. 2, 1913
Vasily Kandinsky, Landscape with Red Spots, No. 2, 1913

El Lissitzky, Untitled, ca. 1919–20
El Lissitzky, Untitled, ca. 1919–20

Giorgio de Chirico, The Red Tower, 1913
Giorgio de Chirico, The Red Tower, 1913

Kurt Schwitters, Merz Drawing 75, 1920
Kurt Schwitters, Merz Drawing 75, 1920

Joan Miró, Seated Woman II, 1939
Joan Miró, Seated Woman II, 1939

Henry Moore, Three Standing Figures, 1953
Henry Moore, Three Standing Figures, 1953

Jackson Pollock, Eyes in the Heat, 1946
Jackson Pollock, Eyes in the Heat, 1946

Robert Motherwell, Personage (Autoportrait), 1943
Robert Motherwell, Personage (Autoportrait), 1943

Arshile Gorky, Untitled, 1944
Arshile Gorky, Untitled, 1944

Other references

The Hidden Language of Art: Symbol and Illusion AGNSW lecture series 2018:

Site specific: the power of place AGNSW lecture series 2017

  • 4Canaletto (speaker A/Professor David R Marshall), 22 February 2017
  • 3Claude Lorrain (speaker Dr Lisa Beaven), 15 February 2017 – Drawings and paintings of the Roman Campagna (the countryside around Rome).

2The Peggy Guggenheim Collection Venice, Catalogue, July 1979

Italian Master Drawings 1350-1800 from the Janos Scholz Collection, Janos Scholz, 1976

XVI Century Italian Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection, 1979

Leonardo da Vinci, Bruno Santi, 1975

Leonardo The Artist and the Non-Artist, Cecil Gould, 1975

Turner, Michael Lloyd, NGA, 1996

150 Masterpieces of Drawing, Anthony Toney, 1963

How the Italian Futurists shaped the aesthetics of modernity in the 20th century, The Conversation, Selena Daly, 3 March 2017

 

 

 

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