Italy is a favourite destination for British travellers. This talk looks at what our ancestors thought of the country and its art – and discovers some of the pitfalls of nineteenth century travel.
Italy, in the mid nineteenth century, may have been a collection of poor, fragmented states, but it was also the destination for many English travellers. Byron, Ruskin, the Brownings and Dickens all visited, along with many others, and wrote of the art and culture they discovered. In this talk we’ll explore the history of Italian painting through the eyes of such visitors, discovering how they reacted to the early Renaissance beauty of Fra Angelico or the turbulent exuberance of Tintoretto. We’ll also hear what they thought of Italy in general, in an age when crossing the Alps was a major – and possibly dangerous – undertaking. This sort of cultural travel was not for the faint-hearted!