A New Athens, Florence, Italy:
Cradle of Modern Civilization
A. William Merritt Chase, 1907
dear Mr. Chase-
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
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .........................................................
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 centurys 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 Americas 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 Teachers College, Columbia University.
Although the family had been to Europe in 1906, this was Alices
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 Klaubers first encounter with Italian Renaissance and Baroque
art in situ, but also Chases. 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
. . . On July 4 the group assembled at
the Palace Hotel where Mr. Chase entertained us and gave
a talk on our plans. The writers 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 Chases techniques and methods as an artist
and teacher are rare in Miss Klaubers 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 Klaubers 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 Berensons home at Setignano and that, she enjoyed
the house very much indeed but especially his books in three rooms
and all over the hall. Berensons 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