Berenson, Bernard

Berenson, Bernard

Berenson, Bernard (bĕrˈənsən), 1865–1959, American art critic and connoisseur of Italian art, b. Lithuania, grad. Harvard, 1887. An expert and an arbiter of taste, he selected for art collectors innumerable paintings, many of which are now in museums. A testament to his taste may be seen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He was associated for many years with the British art dealer Lord Duveen as chief art adviser. Berenson settled (c.1900) in Settignano, near Florence, Italy, where he built up a fine art collection and library. He was noted as a brilliant conversationalist and wit. His home, I Tatti, became a mecca for European and American intellectuals and was willed to Harvard. Some of Berenson's early publications are still used in the study of art history, though later scholars have criticized many of his judgments. Among his many writings are Venetian Painters of the Renaissance (1894), Lorenzo Lotto (1895), Florentine Painters of the Renaissance (1896), Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1897), Drawings of the Florentine Painters (1903), North Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1907), Sketch for a Self-Portrait (1949), Rumor and Reflection (1952), The Passionate Sightseer (1960), Sunset and Twilight … Diaries 1947–1958, ed. by Nicky Mariano (1963), and Italian Pictures of the Renaissance (repr. 1972).


See biographies by S. Sprigge (1960), N. Mariano (1966), M. Secrest (1979), and E. Samuels (2 vol., 1979–87).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Berenson, Bernard


Born June 14 (26), 1865, in Vilnius; died Oct. 7, 1959, in Florence. American art historian. Graduated from Harvard University in 1887. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Literature, and a number of European academies. Lived in Italy from 1900.

In his works written between 1890 and the early 1900’s, Berenson first defined the stylistic characteristics of the Italian Renaissance schools and their representative masters. Berenson did a vast amount of work on the attribution of the paintings and drawings of Italian artists.


The Italian Painters of the Renaissance. London, 1953.
In Russian translation:
Zhivopistsy ital’ianskogo Vozrozhdeniia. Moscow, 1965.


Mostyn-Owen, W. Bibliografia di Bernard Berenson. Milan, 1955.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Berenson, Bernard (b. Valvrojenski)

(1865–1959) art historian, connoisseur, collector; born in Biturmansk, Lithuania. He studied at the local synagogue before his family emigrated to Boston (1875), where he studied at Boston University (1883) and Harvard (B.A. 1887). Subsidized by Isabella Stewart Gardner, he studied in Paris, London, Oxford, Berlin, and Italy (1887–88). He settled in an 18th-century Villa I Tatti near Florence and devoted himself to the study and identification of medieval and Renaissance works, specializing in Italian art. An honored scholar and authenticator, he acquired prints and paintings for museums and private collectors, such as Isabella Gardner, and for international dealers, thereby making himself wealthy, and attracting criticism from some quarters for placing his connoisseurship at the service of profit-makers. In addition to the many distinguished critical essays and scholarly works, notably The Study and Criticism of Italian Art (1902) and Drawings of the Florentine Painters (1903), he published a three-volume autobiography (1949–52). He became famous for his ability to attribute paintings to artists based on specific characteristics of style and technique—even to the point of identifying hitherto unknown painters. At his death, the Villa I Tatti was left to Harvard University as a center for Italian Renaissance studies.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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