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My Dear BB – The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark, 1925-59

Thursday 7 April 2016

1 Hour


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Ticket price

Robert and Carolyn Cumming, together with Catherine Porteous who was personal assistant for many years to Kenneth Clark, discuss the careers and friendship of Clark and the legendary connoisseur and critic Bernard Berenson.

Clark and Berenson met in Italy in 1925 when Clark was 22. They began a correspondence that lasted until Berenson’s death in 1959 at the age of 94. The Cummings have edited the complete correspondence between these two most influential figures in the 20th-century art world. Their letters exchange views about art, politics, life, friends, family, collectors, books and travel. Berenson advised Clark on his career but, above all, the letters are a record of a deep and intimate friendship. Clark went on to be Keeper of the King’s Pictures, director of the National Gallery and chairman of the Arts Council. He is particularly remembered for the pioneering television documentary series, Civilisation. Berenson was a penniless East European Jewish émigré to the USA. Educated at Harvard, he nonetheless chose to settle in Italy where, holding court at I Tatti, he established himself as the most eminent authority of his time on Renaissance art, and in old age was revered as ‘the Sage of Settignano’. 

Robert Cumming has worked at the Tate gallery and at Christie’s, where he set up the foremost international education programme on fine and decorative arts. He is a professor of art history at Boston University based at the university’s London campus. Carolyn is a landscape garden designer, who studied in Florence. Porteous became Clark’s personal assistant in the 1950s. The discussion is chaired by Philip Hook, author and senior director of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s and a trustee of the London Library.

Programme of Italian literature and culture.