Ye Pilgrims of Beauty, from barbarous lands,
Behold where the model of loveliness stands;
Go, kneel by the marble, if marble it seem,
And Love, with its torch, will illuminate your dream.
-Anonymous (signed "H.") from the New England Magazine, July 1831
(found in the catalogue for Pilgrims of Beauty, an exhibit at the RISD Museum of Art, 2012, curated by Crawford Alexander Mann III)
For centuries, artists have travelled to Italy to learn from the art and from fellow artists, and to create inspired works of their own. Some were sent on commission by wealthy benefactors, others resided in national academies, and still others set off as a form of adventure. All were pilgrims, and sketching was their dominant endeavor.
Today, the tradition continues, and I head off for my ninth July in Central Italy, where I have reinvented my own art, thanks to the inspirations that I'm surrounded by, and the artists who travel with me as fellow teachers and students.
The notion that Italy is where all the beauty is, is a Romantic one. There is beauty everywhere, and without a doubt, Italy offers as much ugliness and unpleasantness as other places. But the long tradition of sketching there is certainly an engaging one - and my own work speaks to it, as well as to contemporary times. Like many of my predecessors, I'm moved by the picturesque. A tattered door is more engaging than shiny cathedral dome. At least, thus far. I'm always prepared to be converted.
Let the pilgrimage begin.