The Italian Presence in American Art, 1860-1920

By Irma B. Jaffe | Go to book overview
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very much in the vanguard of new industrial developments and a modern organization of industry and labor; in the social sense, Isabella Stewart Gardner was very much in the avant-garde of feminine behavior. And in the artistic sense, the paintings all three collected represented a modernist sensibility in their colors, compositions, stylistic treatment, and organization of elements. By reaching far back into the past, as Henry James advised Americans to do, and by "'pick[ing] and choos[ing] and assimilat[ing] and in short (aesthetically and culturally) claim[ing] our property wherever we find it,'" collectors of Botticelli and early Renaissance art encouraged a daring and radical taste. In doing so, they added strength to the Modern movement. 58


For permission to consult and quote from the Bernard Berenson Archive at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy, I am grateful to Dr. Cecil Anrep and Erich Linder, literary executors of the Berenson estate. I am also grateful to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for permission to examine the Gardner correspondence in microfilm at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Papers), the Vose Galleries of Boston, the Houghton Library at Harvard University, and the American Academy in Rome have also provided me with welcome assistance during the course of my research. I am particularly grateful to the Smithsonian Institution's Fluid Research Fund for a grant enabling me to continue my researches in Europe.

E. Wharton, In Old New York, New York, 1924, 1-74.
For the popularity of Raphael, see D. A. Brown, Raphael in America, Washington, D.C, 1983.
Among the numerous studies of the British PreRaphaelites that may be consulted, see T. Hilton, The Pre-Raphaelites, New York and London, 1970; and The Tate Gallery, The Pre-Raphaelites, London, 1984. For the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of womanly beauty, see G. Pollock and D. Cherry, "Woman as Sign in Pre-Raphaelite Literature: The Representation of Elizabeth Siddall," in G. Pollock, Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism, and Histories of Art, London and New York, 1988, 91-114.
See F. Spalding, Magnificent Dreams: Burne-Jones and the Late Victorians, Oxford, 1978, for brief discussion and illustrations of the many late-Victorian British artists who shared the PRB emphasis on aesthetics and the early Renaissance feminine image.
Hilton (as in n. 3), 126-28.
A. Vallance, "The Invention of Aubrey Beardsley," Magazine of Art, 1898, 367.
When paintings by the British Pre-Raphaelites were first exhibited in Boston at the Athenaeum Gallery in 1858, they were characterized as "barbarous and ugly," and their "harsh and discordant" colors were considered "peculiar to the English ideal of excellence. . . ." Later, some Boston collectors, such as Martin Brimmer, under the influence of Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton, acquired PRB paintings, and Mrs. Gardner owned a small piece by Rossetti. Generally speaking, however, the French Barbizon painters dominated American collections at this time. One of the foremost collectors of British mid-nineteenth-century art was Frederick Layton whose Layton Gallery became the core of the Milwaukee Museum of Art. His collection, however, consisted of paintings by the less radical British painters working in a conventional mode of landscape and rural genre in the 1830s and '40s. See Dwight Journal of Music, May 8, 1856, 46; P. Hoyle , "A Climate for Art," in The History of the Boston Athenaeum Gallery, 1827-1873, Boston, 1980, 17; L. B. Miller , "The Milwaukee Art Museum's Founding Father: Frederick Layton (1827-1919) and His Collection,"


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