Berenson, Bernard


Berenson, Bernard
born June 26, 1865, Vilnius, Lithuania, Russian Empire
died Oct. 6, 1959, Settignano, Italy

Lithuanian-born U.S. art historian, critic, and connoisseur.

He grew up in Boston and attended Harvard University, but for most of his life he lived in Italy, where he built a reputation as an authority on Italian Renaissance painting. He was adviser to the art dealer Joseph Duveen (1869–1939) and to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924), founder of Boston's Gardner Museum. Berenson bequeathed his villa, I Tatti (near Florence), with its art collection and outstanding library, to Harvard to be administered as the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. His books include The Drawings of the Florentine Painters (1903, 1938, 1961) and Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1952).

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▪ American art critic
Bernard originally  spelled Bernhard  
born June 26, 1865, Vilnius, Lithuania, Russian Empire
died Oct. 6, 1959, Settignano, Italy
 American art critic, especially of Italian Renaissance art.

      Reared in Boston, Berenson was educated at Harvard University, from which he was graduated in 1887. His first book, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance (1894), displayed a concise writing style. He was also endowed with a discriminating eye, exceptional memory, perceptive intelligence, and humanistic learning. For a time he was an adviser to the international art dealer Lord Duveen, and his opinion was often sought in the purchase of paintings. Many masterpieces now in American museums were bought upon his recommendation.

      Although Berenson retained his U.S. citizenship, he lived in Italy most of his life. He was sequestered during World War II in Tuscany, and his diary Rumour and Reflection, 1941–1944, was published in 1952. He bequeathed to Harvard University his villa, I Tatti, with its art collection and magnificent library to be administered as a Center for Italian Renaissance Culture. Among his major works are Aesthetics and History in the Visual Arts (1948), The Drawings of the Florentine Painters (1938), and the monumental Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1952).

Additional Reading
Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur (1979), and Bernard Berenson, the Making of a Legend (1987); Meryle Secrest, Being Bernard Berenson (1979); Colin Simpson, Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen (1986; also published as The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen, 1987).

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Universalium. 2010.

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