a letter from the Director
I first came to Italy a year after leaving art school. Some of my teachers had never stopped talking about Italy, and now I understood why. The two weeks that I spent in Rome and Florence gave me enough material to work on for a year in my studio. The light, the forms, the incredible richness of the museums and churches, and the pervasive atmosphere of art were revelations to me. It was an experience that I felt compelled to share with other painters.
We started the school in 1988, with the idea of a school of modern art in Italy, based on tradition and observation, limited to painting, drawing, and sculpture, and with weekly trips to Rome, Florence and other cities of art.
The concept of the program has not really changed much since then. The International School has always been a place where painters could paint, and drawing would be the core of the curriculum. For over 20 years, our students have been receiving a high quality art education in Italy, with an outstanding faculty, for a reasonable cost. Many people have written to say that they made more progress in six weeks at the school than they had done over a semester back home.
And where else can you see the art that has inspired painters and sculptors for more than a thousand years, in situ? Art in Italy is not just decoration, and it is not a commodity. You have to experience it here to understand: it permeates the air, it infuses the light, and it even flavors the food. Imagine going to your local church and praying under a work by Caravaggio, painted for that chapel four hundred years ago. Imagine, in a nearby caffè, that you can stand in the same spot where Bernini mused over the story of the palaces in the piazza, and conceived his next fountain. Imagine walking down the same streets that so many artists throughout the centuries have walked: Giotto, Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Michelangelo; the giants of the Renaissance. They also came to admire and study the work of the ancients, the work of the Roman and Greek geniuses, unequalled in quality from the 6th century BC to today.
Here they bury great artists like kings in churches; here they do not despise art as with us; the churches provide a shelter for pictures and statues however naked they may be. It's a fascinating country. You see, Italy, apart from its natural scenery and warmth, is the one country in which you feel convinced that art is really supreme over everything, and that conviction gives one courage.
There is a church in Rome near the Colosseum, called Basilica di San Clemente. It is a 12th-century basilica, built on top of a 4th-century church, which was built over a 2nd-century Mithraic temple, part of which in the 1st century served as an early Christian church.
When you go down the three levels, you peel back the layers of Rome. In this one building were created Byzantine mosaics, Renaissance, Medieval, and Early Christian frescoes, and pagan sculptures. And now mass is celebrated here every day. Art is alive here, it is not shrink-wrapped, branded, and hung on walls. This is deep history.
Many artists today may feel compelled to create something completely new. But we own the past, it is not something that is separate from us. “To embrace and absorb. That is Enlightenment,” writes Milarepa, the eleventh-century Buddhist poet and saint. We have inherited the entire history and knowledge of art before us. You belong to a vast tradition. Italy is the fountain. Come, and drink.