In the decades following the Civil War, budding and polished American artists alike embraced the Grand Tour tradition with gusto, and Florence, the city that nurtured the Renaissance, returned their ardor. Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists, an exhibit appearing at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, from March 3 to July 15, recalls the period through works made by American visitors.
John Singer Sargent receives special attention because he was born in Florence to American parents. His 1910 canvas At Torre Galli: Ladies in a Garden captures the sort of romantic vision of greater Florence that drove Americans to book passage on the next departing ship—spectacular villas, buttery natural light, and women enjoying the freedom to do whatever they liked, even if it was as simple as sitting outside on a lovely day.
“It was a tremendously fertile time,” says James Bradburne, director general of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. “Florence was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe and it had a large Anglo-American community. It was an extremely interesting place.” The exhibit is part of a broader celebration that marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the Florence-born explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his name to the American continent. (+39.055.2645155, www.palazzostrozzi.org)