BERENSON, BERNARD


BERENSON, BERNARD
BERENSON, BERNARD (1865–1959), U.S. art historian and art connoisseur. Berenson was born Valvrojenski in the Lithuanian village of Baltramentz, where his father, an ironmonger and grain and lumber merchant, was one of the leaders of the Jewish community. When Berenson was ten, the family emigrated to the United States, where they changed their name. Berenson was sent to the Boston Latin School and, with the financial assistance of the art collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner, was able to go to Harvard University. After graduating he went to London, Oxford, Berlin, and finally Italy, where he made his home for the rest of his life. Berenson made a thorough study of Italian Renaissance art, and was soon able to purchase important masterpieces for his patron. Through his books – his earliest, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, appeared in 1894 – he became known as an authority. In 1907 he began his long association with the English art dealer, Joseph (later Lord) duveen . This connection enabled Berenson to amass a fortune by providing Duveen's pictures with "Berenson passports," certifying the expensive paintings as genuine. He and his wife, who came from a wealthy American Quaker family, acquired an old villa near Florence and filled it with art treasures and a vast library. Here Berenson's research into Renaissance art came to fruition in a number of important books, among them The Study and Criticism of Italian Art (in three series, 1901, 1902, and 1916), Essays in the Study of Sienese Painting (1918), and Italian Pictures of the Renaissance (1932). Berenson was a prolific writer. His bibliography, published on his 90th birthday, listed 73 pages of books and articles. Although he destroyed some time-hallowed attributions, he also rediscovered artists forgotten for hundreds of years whose works had been credited to better-known masters. He managed to bring light into the jungle of naïve or careless credits that prevailed in Renaissance connoisseurship when he began his career. Berenson experienced a certain conflict in his relationship to Judaism. As a young man he contributed essays on Jewish topics to the Harvard Monthly, and throughout his long life never denied being a Jew and even boasted of carrying on the Jewish "traditions of great learning." However, he joined the Episcopalian church as a young man, and later became a Catholic, although he never publicized these conversions. As an American citizen he was not affected by the antisemitic legislation in Italy before and during the Nazi domination. However, he became apprehensive for the safety of his art treasures, and in 1942 went into hiding until the German retreat from the country. In his autobiographical writings he vacillated between an enormous racial pride and a sharp condemnation of the Jewish people. One of his last autobiographical books was Sketch for a Self-Portrait (1949), which contained reminiscences of his childhood in Lithuania. For many years he was an anti-Zionist, but in his old age he accepted Zionism and the necessity for a Jewish state. He bequeathed his villa "I Tatti," with all its treasures, to Harvard, to be available to young scholars so that they could "live" art there as he had lived it. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Sprigge, Berenson (1960); N. Mariano, Forty Years with Berenson (1966); H. Kiel (ed.), Bernard Berenson Treasury (1962). (Alfred Werner)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Berenson, Bernard — born June 26, 1865, Vilnius, Lithuania, Russian Empire died Oct. 6, 1959, Settignano, Italy Lithuanian born U.S. art historian, critic, and connoisseur. He grew up in Boston and attended Harvard University, but for most of his life he lived in… …   Universalium

  • Berenson, Bernard — ► (1865 1959) Crítico e historiador de arte. Fue una autoridad en lo que se refiere al arte italiano del Renacimiento. * * * (26 jun. 1865, Vilna, Lituania, Imperio ruso–6 oct. 1959, Settignano, Italia). Historiador, crítico y perito en arte… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Berenson,Bernard — Ber·en·son (bĕrʹĭn sən), Bernard also Bernhard 1865 1959. Lithuanian born American art critic and historian particularly noted for his writings on the Italian Renaissance, including Venetian Painters of the Renaissance (1894). * * * …   Universalium

  • BERENSON, Bernard — (1865–1959)    The American art historian who, although never involved in Etruscan art history, in spite of his long residence near Florence at his villa I Tatti, had an implicit influence on many directions of art history that formed a general… …   Historical Dictionary of the Etruscans

  • Berenson, Bernard (Bernhard Valvrojenski) — (1865 1959)    American art historian. Born in Vilna in Lithuania, his family moved to the US. After gradu ating from Harvard University, he went to London, Oxford, Berlin and finally settled in Italy. In 1907 he began a long relationship with… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Berenson, Bernard (or Bernhard) —  (1865–1959) Lithuanian born American art critic …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Berenson — Berenson, Bernard …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bernard — Bernard, Claude * * * (as used in expressions) Albinus, Bernard Siegfried Baruch, Bernard (Mannes) Berenson, Bernard Bernard, Claude Henriette Rosine Bernard Bosanquet, Bernard Bernard Schwartz De Voto, Bernard (Augustine) Foucault, Jean (Bernard …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Berenson — (Bernard) (1865 1959) collectionneur et écrivain d art américain. Il étudia surtout la peinture italienne de la Renaissance …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Bernard Berenson — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Berenson. Bernard Berenson, né Bernhard Valvrojenski à Butrimonys (Lituanie) le 26 juillet 1865, mort à Settignano le 6 octobre 1959, est un américain historien de l art spécialiste de la Renaissance italienne.… …   Wikipédia en Français


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