Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1865-06-26
Death 1959-10-06
Americans
Italian, German, English, French

Biographical notes:

Art critic and author.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to J. Pierpont Morgan, 1909 July 15. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270133470

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Vallombrosa, to Belle da Costa Greene, 1947 Aug. 17. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270134320

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Paris, to Walter C. Baker, 1950 June 13. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270870298

Berenson, an art historian and leading authority on Italian Renaissance painting, was born in Lithuania, grew up in Boston, and from 1900 lived in his Villa I Tatti, outside Florence.

From the description of Letters to Margaret Scolari Barr, 1936-1966. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 84011670

From the description of Additional correspondence, 1950-1953. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612367441

From the guide to the Bernard Berenson additional correspondence, 1950-1953., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

From the guide to the Bernard Berenson letters to Margaret Scolari Barr, 1936-1966., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Berenson was an American art historian, connoisseur and authority on Italian Renaissance art.

From the description of [Letters to Frederic Fairchild Sherman] I Tatti, Settignano, Florence / B. Berenson. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 166268382

Art critic, author.

From the description of Bernard Berenson letters, 1935-1949. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 467178597

Art historian Bernard Berenson specialized in Medieval and Renaissance art, publishing several books on Italian artists and painting. He also served as an advisor to many prominent collectors such as American art collector and patron Isabella Stewart Gardner.

From the description of Bernard Berenson correspondence, 1950-1959. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 707432992

Berenson was an art historian and leading authority on Italian Renaissance painting.

From the description of Bernard and Mary Berenson, Papers (1880-2002, bulk 1880-1959) : a finding aid. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 463667699

American art historian and connoisseur.

From the description of Letters : to Rene Gimpel, 1909-1931. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 79625928

Bernard Berenson was an art expert and arbiter of taste. He immigrated to the United States from Lithuania and graduated from Harvard. He established a reputation as the leading expert on Italian Renaissance art, and advised many collectors, including the Gardner Museum and Lord Duveen. After his marriage, Berenson settled in Italy, building his own art collection; his villa, I Tatti, attracted many intellectuals from America and Europe, seeking his expertise, his wit, and conversation. He published numerous standard works on art and painting, and was among the first supporters of Renoir and Cézanne.

From the description of Bernard Berenson letters to Leonie, 1932-1940. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 58802270

Biography

Art historian Bernard Berenson specialized in Medieval and Renaissance art, publishing several books on Italian artists and painting. He received critical acclaim for his text, Lorenzo Lotto: An Essay on Constructive Art Criticism and for his later work The Italian Painters of the Renaissance . Berenson also served as an advisor to many prominent collectors such as American art collector and patron Isabella Stewart Gardner. In 1900 Berenson settled into I Tatti, a villa in Fiesole, Italy. He lived there until his death in 1959.

From the guide to the Bernard Berenson Correspondence, 1950-1959, (Mandeville Special Collections Library)

Bernard Berenson, art historian and critic, was born in Lithuania in 1865. His family moved to Boston, Mass. in 1875 where he was enrolled in the Boston Latin School. He then attended Boston University for one year, and graduated from Harvard College in 1887. Encouraged by Isabella Stewart Gardner and others, Berenson travelled to Europe to study art, although with the original intention of becoming a writer. Mary Berenson was born a Quaker in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1864, the daughter of well-known preachers Hannah Whitall and Robert Pearsall Smith. She attended Smith College from 1882-1884 and the Harvard Annex for one year, 1884-5. She left the US to marry Irish barrister and political hopeful B.F.C. "Frank" Costelloe in 1885, which also necessitated her conversion to Catholicism, against the advice of her family. Mary and Frank had two daughters, Rachel (Ray), born in 1887 and Karin, born in 1889. Both were diffìcult pregnancies. Mary's family followed her to England shortly afterwards and became deeply involved in social, literary and cultural circles. In 1890 Berenson was introduced to Mary through a mutual friend, Gertrude Hitz-Burton. Having already become unhappy in her marriage, Mary followed Berenson back to the continent to study art under his tutelage. She eventually left her husband and lived in Italy and travelled with Berenson. A year after Frank Costelloe's death in 1899 Mary and Berenson were married in Italy (Dec. 1900). In spite of numerous affairs and liaisons on both sides they remained married their entire lives. Having maintained separate residences until their marriage, in 1901 they moved into "I Tatti," a villa owned by John Temple-Leader. They purchased the property in 1908 from Temple-Leader's son, who had inherited it upon his father's death. They spent several years updating, renovating and adding to the villa, especially the library and gardens, work supervised by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott. They continued to acquire adjacent properties. Berenson had gone to Europe after college with the intention of becoming a writer. There, he was drawn in by the aesthetic experience, and became more focused on looking at and writing about art. As his reputation as an "expert" was established from his scholarly publications, Berenson was often requested to provide his attributions on works of art for various art dealers, private collectors and museums. One of the most notable of these relationships was with Duveen Bros. Mary initially became involved in the women's movement in England and America, and continued in her political activities, making speeches and helping her first husband with his campaigns for office. After meeting Berenson, however, and based on her studies with him, the focus of her energies shifted, and she also became an art critic. She worked very closely with Berenson on his projects, as well as publishing substantially on her own.

Elisabetta "Nicky" Mariano was hired in 1919 as librarian/secretary. She was a close friend of both Mary and Bernard. Althought they did not marry after Mary's death in 1945, Nicky remained a close companion to Berenson until his death in 1959. She continued to live in a house on the property and served as an informal advisor to the early directors of the Harvard University Center until her death in 1968.

For more extensive biography, see Ernest Samuels's two volumes, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979) and Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Legend (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1987). Other biographies include Nicky Mariano, Forty Years with Berenson (New York: Knopf, 1966), Sylvia Sprigge, Berenson: a Biography (London: G, Allen & Unwin, 1960), as well as numerous published diaries and letters. For more information on Mary Berenson see Barbara Strachey and Jayne Samuels, eds., Mary Berenson: A Self-Portrait from her Letters & Diaries (London: V. Gollancz, 1983) and Robert A. Parker, The Transatlantic Smiths (New York: Random House, 1959).

From the guide to the Berenson, Bernard and Mary. Papers, 1880-2002, 1880-2002, (Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies)

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Subjects:

  • Art and society
  • Arts
  • Art, Renaissance
  • Art--Collectors and collecting
  • Renaissance
  • Literary agents
  • Art historians--Correspondence
  • Art historians--United States
  • Art--Scholarships, fellowships, etc
  • Art historians
  • Publishers and publishing--20th century
  • American literature--20th century
  • Art dealers
  • Art and society--California--San Diego
  • Art, Italian
  • Authors and publishers
  • Art--History
  • World War, 1939-1945--Diaries
  • Sculpture, Renaissance
  • Art museum curators
  • Painting, Renaissance
  • Renaissance--Italy
  • Aesthetics
  • Painting, European

Occupations:

  • Art critics
  • Art historians
  • Authors

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • California--San Diego (as recorded)
  • Italy (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)