Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Enjoying the landscape

The other day I was reading an essay, in the current issue of the New Criterion, by Karen Wilkin (an editor at the Hudson Review) in which she reviews the exhibition "Italia! Muse to American Artists, 1830–2005" which is currently showing at the National Academy Museum in New York. She writes:
From the eighteenth century on, Italy was an obligatory part of the Grand Tour for artists and non-artists alike, not only for the wealth of Old Master art to be seen in its palaces and churches or for the traces of antiquity visible throughout the peninsula but also for the landscape itself—the sites where myths were supposed to have taken place, where classical texts were set, and where crucial events in Roman history unfolded.
A similar sentiment, of seeing in person a street or landmark with which one is indirectly – but, in a sense, intimately – familiar, often grips me as I wander around London. As I grew up, most of my reading, both of literary classics and of more frivolous literature, was set in England - in London and the surrounding countryside in particular. As the depictions of places and the way I imagined them, which has been etched in my mind, are melded with my view of their real locations, I often have a feeling of reverence, maybe not because of the locations' intrinsic importance, but because the final touches are being added to the visual edifices that make up much of my childhood.

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