II. A New Athens, Florence, Italy:
Cradle of Modern Civilization
A. William Merritt Chase, 1907

 

“My dear Mr. Chase-

This will introduce to you my friend Miss Klauber who is to be a member of your summer art class during your sojourn in Europe.
Miss Klauber is an artist of talent and anticipates both pleasure and profit from your instructions.
You will find her an interesting pupil.
Any attention you can show her will be appreciated by Miss Klauber and your old friend of student days.
If you should meet our old friend Frank Currier please remember me to him.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ......................................................... Yours Truly

........................................................................................... A. M. Farnham

........................................................................................... San Diego May 16th ’07.” 22

. . . The artists studio in the late nineteenth century was comparable to a department store window in interior display and arrangement in practise and aesthetic principle. By century’s end it symbolized a new kind of artist who cluttered his own space with exotic knick-knacks collected in worldly meandering. The studio of William Merritt Chase, 1814-1916, was the epitome of such a fashionable setting that came to be identified with the successful artist. A former student of American painter Frank Duveneck and the German academic tradition, Ammi Merchant Farnham, 1846-1922, was the first professional artist to settle in San Diego. As a curator of the Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts for 35 years, it is expected that he would know many of the artists and collegues of the Eastern establishment. He had provided an introduction for Miss Klauber to this pre-eminent figure in American art history. A rather flambouyant cosmopolitan, Chase was one of America’s most respected art teachers and painters and was a major influence on his contemporaries. As an American art teacher and a strong advocate of the new French style, Impressionism, he was among the first to introduce many American painters to its bright palette and broken brushstroke. His work was favorably compared with that of Whistler and Zorn between 1876 and 1916.

. . . Around 1900 when ships were the principle means of international travel and the pace was much more leisurely, Chase was making annual treks to Europe during the summer months accompanied by young aspirants who were going for study with the master. With a letter of introduction in hand, 36 year old Alice Klauber joined the class in Italy in 1907. The trip differed from earlier European tours by Chase since there was a greater emphasis on art history with lectures given by Walter Pach, 1883-1958, and Louis G. Monte. According to the class information brochure, “He is a specialist on art theory, history and pedagogics... and a member of Teacher’s College, Columbia University.” Although the family had been to Europe in 1906, this was Alice’s first formal study trip to Europe and every moment was filled with absorbing the legacy of western art history evidenced by her journals and sketches. Her Italian class experience was augmented by independent additional travel to northern European areas. The San Diego artist spent nearly six months abroad.

. . . Miss Klauber left San Diego May 18, via San Francisco, Shasta Springs, Victoria, Vancouver, Banff, Winnipeg, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, and Boston. She found the Northwest the “most impressive country” she traveled and Shasta Springs “especially beautiful with Banff especially scenic.” Ultimately, according to her journal, she departed from the Charlestown docks on Sunday, June 8, aboard the S. S. Romanic. Chase specialist, Ronald Pisano, established Boston as their point of departure on June 7th. Following an uneventful crossing and pausing briefly at Punta Delgada, she arrived at Naples, June 20. For the next six days Miss Klauber explored the niches of Capri, Pompeii and Sorrento as well as Naples. From there, the group centered in Rome from June 26 through July 3. Here study began in earnest. Side trips during this interim took the artist to see the treasures of Tivoli, Orvierto, Siena and Empoli.

. . . Florence, Flower City of the Italian Renaissance, was the next home base for the class. Members arrived July 4, 1907. Studio participation occurred during the morning hours augmented by museum visits and lectures offered in the afternoon and early evening. Meanwhile the young artists were continually sketching. There were no idle moments.

. . . The visit to Florence was not only Miss Klauber’s first encounter with Italian Renaissance and Baroque art in situ, but also Chase’s. 23 According to his biographer, Katherine Roof, Chase had never had any great enthusiasm for Florentine artists even though he learned to appreciate the decorative qualities of some of the past masters. He even acquired a villa on the Arno River, which he would decorate and furnish but where he spent little time. While in Florence, Chase met his friend and colleague identified with the early Taos School of artists in New Mexico noted for its subjects of the Southwestern landscape and its Native American inhabitants, Julius Rolshoven, 1858-1930, also an owner of a ‘castle’ near the city. Chase promptly conducted the class to see him. This fact is corroborated in an entry in the journal of Miss Klauber:

. . . “Tuesday, July 23rd
Chase painted the model for the class - took all morning. Miss Scott talked and I think spoiled a fine beginning.
Aft. (Sic) Went to the studio of Rolshoven-fine man and place-interesting things.”

. . . On July 4 the group assembled at the Palace Hotel where “Mr. Chase entertained us and gave a talk on our plans.” The writer’s feelings about Chase registered some disappointment with his demonstrations and with his criticism, particularly when “he roasted one of the members so outrageously.” On ‘class exhibit day,’ she noted “I was scared to death, but Mr. Chase left me off easy.” 24 Her early reserved judgment may have been tempered by trepidation of the great man. By the end of July, however, her attitude seemed to have changed as she enthusiastically recorded on July 28 that she went to the Pitti with Chase and “he was great.” Comments concerning Chase’s techniques and methods as an artist and teacher are rare in Miss Klauber’s journals. Entries are more revealing in their enthusiastic impressions of newly discovered wonderful worlds filled with treasures and temples out of the past and personally experienced for the first time.

. . . Using Florence as a home base, the group ventured to Assisi, Bellagio, Padua, Perugia, Pisa, Milan, Venice and Verona between July 4 and September 1. During these study trips, the accounts of Miss Klauber’s journal mention on several occasions a meeting with the Steins, friends since San Francisco days, and Matisse with whom she continued corresponding at least through 1916 when Pach encouraged her to tell Matisse of events involving his art on the west coast., especially exhibitions including his work and new collectors, “as he cares very much about having his work appreciated...”, that would give credibility to his efforts and museum exhibitions especially were signs of acceptance. Walter Pach, a man of rare sensibilities who was the lecturer and co-manager of the class, is frequently mentioned. Pach was destined to become one of the mentors of modern art. He was one of the best-informed Americans about current trends in European art at the time. What serious student of modern art has not glanced at his Masters of Modern Art or read one of his many monographs on the leading painters such as Renoir or Ingres? Later as a speaker much in demand, he addressed audiences throughout the western world. A 1940 tour would bring him to Mexico and San Diego, California, where he offered two lectures, Realism the Art of the European Race and Ancient Answers to Modern Problems. 25 Miss Klauber was undoubtedly among those in attendance.

. . . A journal entry dated July 25, 1907, mentions taking a walk with the Steins to Renaissance scholar Barnard Berenson’s home at Setignano and that, “she enjoyed the house very much indeed but especially his books in three rooms and all over the hall.” Berenson’s writings are a reading must for any generation of students specializing in Italian art history. His major contribution to the field, in retrospect, was to distinguish between styles, the Florentine, Venetian, Milanese and others, noting differences in style, technique and iconography.

. . . By September 1st the class had dispersed. On that day she noted that she was not feeling well that she attributed to the “emotional” as well as the “physical” experience of the breakup. Miss Klauber, however, continued her travels for nearly three extra months, a period of independent study, based upon extant sketch books and a journal entitled, Notes 1st Trip Abroad (chiefly Galleries of Painting). She continued her homeward journey through Germany and into the Netherlands, stopping at Innsbruck, Munich, Nuremberg, Heidelberg, Mainz, Cologne, Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam and Delft.

. . . In Belgium she appraised the art treasures of Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. Then off to Paris. Here she spent an entire month indulging in the charm of that captivating city, Mecca of many American painters at the time. During the month of October she found the Salon Autumn disappointing - Matisse terribly so, but the drawings of John Singer Sargent as ‘excellent throughout.’ On October 12, accompanied by the Steins, Miss Klauber went to and through Cluny, attracted especially by the enamel work and the Unicorn Tapestry. A curiosity perhaps, she noted on October 26 that she saw “the flying machine over Place de la Concorde.”

. . . Miss Klauber returned to Dover and London for departure to the United States via a second visit to Brussels, Ghent and Bruges. Sailing from Plymouth on November 18, she arrived in New York ten days later. In New York she visited a very cordial Chase at his studio at 303 Fifth Avenue and saw his collection that included examples of works by Boldini and Sargent, and his own copies of Velazquez. Home again; on December 11th she arrived by train at 7 p.m. “with everyone down to meet me but ‘parents’ (sic).

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