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A small pyramid inside the courtyard of Frida Kahlo’s house, Mexico City (Thelmadatter)
Did the houses, gardens, and locations where Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, and other leading artists lived directly influence their work? Is there a link between their personal environment and their genius? Art historian Janetta Rebold Benton surveys the private residences—and private lives—of painters, sculptors, and architects from Fra Angelico to Philip Johnson to explore this artistic connection.
10–11 a.m. Italy
Fra Angelico, a pious Dominican monk, frescoed the walls and individual cells at San Marco monastery in Florence, and its architecture provides the setting for his Annunciation. Mantegna's mathematical interests are reflected in the house he designed for himself in Mantua, based on a circle within a square. Raphael's childhood home in Urbino provides an example of a typical 15th-century house. Leonardo da Vinci began his life in rural, rustic Vinci, but concluded in his own chateau, the Clos Lucé in Amboise, as the guest of King Francis I of France. The great biographer Giorgio Vasari painted his houses in Arezzo and Florence to elevate his social status.
11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Northern Europe
Albrecht Dürer, whose scientific interests equal those of Leonardo da Vinci, lived in a large half-timber house in Nuremberg. Peter Paul Rubens made a fortune and displayed it in his home and studio in Antwerp, as well as his chateau, Het Steen. Rembrandt, a brilliant painter who lacked Rubens's financial skill, was forced to declare bankruptcy and lost his fine brick house in Amsterdam.
12:30–1:30 p.m. Lunch (a boxed lunch is provided)
1:30–2:45 p.m. France
In Giverny, Claude Monet lived in a house painted in vivid colors, and the garden he designed for it includes the now-iconic lily pond that appears in his paintings. After achieving financial success, Pierre-Auguste Renoir built a house with an extensive garden at Les Collettes in the idyllic southern-French town of Cagnes-sur-Mer. Auguste Rodin lived in his little Villa des Brillants in Meudon, outside Paris, where he had his sculpture studio, and also had a Paris residence. Vincent van Gogh had 38 addresses in 37 years including Mons, Paris, Arles, St-Rémy, and Auvers, where his troubled life ended tragically.
3–4 p.m. North America
Frida Kahlo, who was born and died at the Blue House in Mexico City, chronicled her difficult life in intimately personal paintings. Georgia O'Keeffe found the solitude and open space she craved at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiú in New Mexico. Frank Lloyd Wright created his own distinctive homes at Taliesin East and West in Wisconsin and Arizona. Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut is a touchstone of midcentury modern architecture and design.
Benton is a distinguished professor of art history at Pace University.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)