Vincent Price on Paris, the Louvre and Ethel Barrymore

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. In these final extracts from his visual autobiography, Vincent reflects back on his first time visiting Paris during a hot August in 1928…

‘For my money, the most exciting thing about Paris was the boat ride across the channel. I hated Paris then, though I’ve learned to love it. I’m sure it’s not a city for the very young. At sixteen (even at six feet one) you’re too young to night club and too hungry too enjoy the paradise of French cuisine.’

‘At sixteen I resented the French for having torn down the Bastille, for burying Napoleon in a sarcophagus which gave you no idea of his size; for killing King Louis and Marie Antoinette; for having perfected champagne, which gave me my first hang-over; and for their language, which even the children could speak and which had me so confused that no matter what I ordered on any menu, it turned out brains.’

‘I’ll admit the Louvre was impressive, but I missed the clutter of the British Museum and I missed the kings. I would have forgone its treasures gladly, if those golden sovereigns still held sway. And after the Elgin Marbles, the “Winged Victory” looked much too fussy – as if she were in a hurry to get out to lunch – or like those chiffony leading ladies who always come on stage, no matter where they have just exited, by floating down the stairs. She reminded me of Ethel Barrymore, without her head (which was the best part of Ethel, because that’s where her voice lived), making an entrance in the play, The Constant Wife.’

‘I’ve had to eat my opinions, which always taste worse than words, but I hated Paris. The whole effect was a forced laugh, and I only learned to appreciate it years later when my own laugh was a little forced too, and hers seemed more familiar.’

Advertisements

Vincent Price on Reims Cathedral

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here is an extract from his visual autobiography in which he recalls his visit Reims Cathedral in August 1928…

ON REIMS CATHEDRAL
‘I loved the Rheims Cathedral, mainly because it had been bombed. Only the first dollars of the Rockefeller money had been spent to start to restore it, and it was still a shambles. But somehow you could see how it had been when those legions of artisans, so many centuries before, had worked on it to pile it there. There is always something really religious about a church being built. Of most churches, I feel that when people have finished working on them, they often have finished worshipping in them as well. They seem to sit and contemplate what has been done and thought before. We were told how long and how much love it had taken to build it, originally, and I was pleased to see that loving going on again. I remember a stonecutter, copying a postcard of a figure, which had been destroyed, and inside, in the great nave, the sky came in. The sun was bright without that sieve of roses to strain through. It was a skeleton of faith, something essential and historical, but still new. I loved Rheims, too, because it was the only French city I saw that wasn’t half hysterical with hurry. The smiles seemed genuine… and I found a menu without brains.’

Reims Cathedral WW1

Vincent Price on Pisa’s Leaning Tower, artless Monaco, and romance in Nice

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some passaged from Price’s visual autobiography in which he looks back on leaving Italy for Monaco and Nice in August 1928…

‘We were nearing the end of Tour 22. The train sped through Pisa, where we could see the Leaving Tower lean, and through Genoa, where we could see boats that reminded us that before long, we’d be on one and on our way back home. And pleasantly enough, the tour gave us the seventh country in the form of that minute monarchy, Monaco. It represented the complete escape from the world of art. There’s none there… only the amazing ingenuity of man’s triumph over a hill, rising out of the sea. He had covered it completely with as mad an assortment of houses of pleasure and peace to be found anywhere on earth.’

‘Finally, two days in Nice, and then to Paris, the boat, and home. I spent those two days in Nice not in the pursuit of the beautiful (though she was very pretty), but in the study and exploration of the human body. Since I had dedicated myself to the world of art, I could hardly do better than to study seriously art’s greatest course of inspiration – the female form.’

Vincent Price on the Eternal City and the glories of Renaissance Christendom

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography in which Price reflects on the city that became the ultimate highlight of his Seven Capitals Tour of Europe in 1928: Rome…

ON THE ETERNAL CITY AND THE GLORIES OF RENAISSANCE CHRISTENDOM
‘After Florence almost anything would have been an anticlimax. But anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Rome should have his heart examined. The names with which people label cities sometimes stretch the imagination, but Rome really does seem “eternal”. You can’t help feeling that it has always been there… and always will be.’

‘Tour 22 and our leaders leaned rather heavily on two aspects of Rome to take care of our curiosity about it – the Forum, those few remaining monument to its ancient glory, and the Church. By “the Church” I mean the glories of Renaissance Christendom… the churches of Rome. There are enough of them to satisfy anyone of any faith, and, indeed, they house greatly some of the greatest art.’

ON WHAT ART TEACHES US
‘The love of art may not be the surest way to become a millionaire, but one thing it teaches you is worth more than anything in life: tolerance. And more than tolerance… understanding.’

High Altar VaticanON THE ST PETER’S CANDLE STORY TOLD BY MOTHER
‘Mother had told me her favourite story about a little Protestant lady who, on being told that the candle at the high altar in St Peter’s had not been out for a thousand years, pursed her lips and extinguished it, saying “Well, it’s out now”. I had thought this very amusing, but when I walked through the doors of that Great Temple, the impact of its importance dispelled any kind of humor spiritually, if temporarily. There has never been anything so perfect as the scale of this church and of everything in it. The cupids holding the holy water, who seem so tiny when you enter, are my size when you reach them, face to face; the soaring canopy and twisted columns of Bernini’s great altar; the dome of Michelangelo; the tombs; the chapels and the chandeliers… perfection of proportion. It was many minutes of awed silence that it occurred to me: here I was, before the candle that hadn’t been out for a thousand years. Mother’s story crossed my mind, and I sincerely hoped that little lady (if she did exist) was safely home in Iowa, happy there, and that nothing on earth could ever bring her back to Rome to repeat that sacrilegious act.’

ON THE CHURCH OF ROME AND KEEPING AN OPEN MIND
‘Rome is the Church. Wonderful, gay, living city that it is, the wonder and majesty around which it throbs is the Church. It was the only place in Europe that to me, at that age, had not been deprived of its nobility by the passage of time, or social or political change. The kingdom of the Catholic Church remains, in all the world, the only realm that has the possibility of permanence. Other faiths will last as long, but none will ever again be able to house its monarch in such magnificence. I never would have believed it, but Rome turned out to be the high point of the whole trip. And besides the above lessons it taught me never again to go anywhere with a mind at half-mast. You’re only celebrating your own death if you do. Man has created so much beauty for so many different reasons – for everyone to enjoy and be a part of – that to shut yourself off from any section or second of it is a waste of time that hurts no one but yourself.’

Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

ON MICHELANGELO’S PIETA, THE SISTINE CHAPEL, AND MOSES
‘I was so moved by Michelangelo’s “Pietà”, I wondered how any work of his could top it. Even the “David” in Florence, heroic and masculine as it is, was pushed aside by the femininity and strength of this young Virgin and her dead son. When I was told that he had done it at the age of twenty-one, I realized that I had only five years until I reached that age, and I had no talent toward it at all. Somewhere (and it may have been there, standing before the statue that summer) it came to me that I was not going to be blessed with creative genius, and it may also have been at this moment that I made up my mind that, as long as this was true, I had darn well better compensate for it by becoming the most receptive human being I could become. I knew for sure that I liked art, and I’d better know everything I could about what I liked. I became an audience, then and there, for the drama of the eye. And once you accept that fact, it is almost impossible ever again to be bored with life. You have a built-in recipe for the cure of that most dread disease: boredom… the living death. All you gave to do is open your eyes.’

Sistine Chapel‘When you’re young, there are lots of dreams of “doors”… at least there were for me. Being the time when things are opening and shutting with more vigor than ever again, youth has the door as a symbol. But there’s one door that, once you’ve entered it, undreaming, you will dream about all your life… the little insignificant door through which you enter the Sistine Chapel.’

‘Was it done on purpose? Did the architect plan it that way – that you should leave the ordinary world through a little door as you enter the heaven of Michelangelo’s creation?… I don’t know, but nothing is made of it in the tour of the Vatican. No guard suddenly stops and says: “Through this little door is another world” or “Don’t let the size of this door fool you… you are about to be hit over the head by a giant on the other side.”

‘But that’s just what happens. Open it, and there you are, an immediate witness at the “Creation of Man”. There you are, being judged by Christ in all His glory. There you are, a midget, standing at the toes of a titan. If you entered the world of art, alone, by the back door, as I did – this is the front door, and once you open it you’re in for keeps in the greatest company you can have.’

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo“There’s no point trying the describe it. Everyone knows how long it took him to paint it – the incredible difficulty of working directly on the moist plaster, put on daily, just enough for the day’s work; how he held the composition in his mind all those years: the thousands of sketches, cartoons, that must have gone into the preparation; the incredible story he had to tell – the Sibyls, the Prophets, the Nude Youths, the Ancestors of Christ, the Miracles of Jerusalem – the accidents and personal torments that beset him…’

Last Judgment_2‘There’s no point in anyone’s saying that this is the greatest, or the second-of-ninetieth-greatest work of art… work of man… Nothing can describe it. But when you’ve seen it, your eyes never forget it. It may slip your mind for years, but one day something great will cross your vision, and immediately your eye will compare it to this ultimate experience of art. Then there’s the “Last Judgment.” Again, no words to tell its writhing, suffering, ecstatic story… There it is!

And the “Moses”, in another church, that eternal visualization of the lawgiver. One almost suspects there was an eleventh commandment: “Let no man see Moses as he was until Michelangelo is born to see him as he will be forever, in the eyes of man”.’

‘There is, however, some solace in the “Moses” that is only a fraction of a greater plan. Michelangelo was human, after all. The great tomb he planned, of which the “Moses” was only a small part, with the “Slaves”, was never finished. He couldn’t quite people the world by himself. But he did leave something for others to do, and the second great sculptor of the Renaissance did the rest… Bernini.’

Michelangelo_Moses

Michelangelo’s Moses, Church of San Pietro, Vincoli, Rome

ON ROME WITHOUT BERNINI
–’At sixteen the fountains of Rome seemed very frivolous, compared with the Sistine Chapel. I keep referring to those sixteen years, but after so many have been piled on top of them, I have to keep reminding myself that, in these chapters, I’m writing about those reactions, and not my older – much older – ones. What it boils down to is another proof of the living quality of all art. It is never static. What surprised you yesterday, you take in your stride tomorrow. What seemed frivolous at sixteen is very profound at forty-five. And that was the case with Bernini’s sculpture. But I know now that Rome is not complete without either of these masters. Rome without Bernini would be as empty as Rome with Michelangelo.’

Vincent Price on Pompeii and ‘feelthy’ frescoes

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography in which Price recalls his impression of Pompeii during his 1928 European tour…

‘Naples was an obvious letdown after the Eternal City, but Pompeii was much more exciting than ancient Rome. The ancient parts of Rome – the Forum, the Coliseum – are grand and impressive, but in Pompeii you really step back into the period immediately after Christ and feel part of it, not only because of the fantastic state of preservation, but because the real charm, the real reality of any period – old or modern – is not to be found in the capital, the great city, but in the typical smaller cities. I doubt it walking through the ruins of New York would possibly tell us as much about American as would the ruins of Cleveland or Kansas City or Seattle.’

‘Pompeii is wonderful, and, of course, at that time, for a boy of sixteen the ‘feelthy’ frescoes of Pompeii were really ‘jazzy.’ And for a young blond girl with a slight southern accent… very good for the powers of suggestion and attendant undecorum.’

Vincent Price on Florence, crying over Del Sarto’s Madonna, and that $25 bronze fountain figure

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which a 48-year-old Price recalls the high point of his 1928 European tour: Florence…

ON SEEING FLORENCE FOR THE FIRST TIME
‘Florence! This was to be the high point of the whole tour. Arriving alone at dawn, I’ll never regret or forget. I had a light suitcase, so I decided to walk to the hotel, which was not next to the station for once, but on the Arno itself. Oh, God… what a city. How beautiful, how clean, how shining, how romantic. I walked along, clearing the garlic out of my lungs (1) and letting my eyes feast on the city. Then suddenly I rounded a corner, and there it was… the Duomo, Giotto’s Tower… and the doors… the doors to heaven, surely, Giotto, Ghiberti, Donatello, Brunelleschi – thank you!’

‘I remember that I was indeed alone when, around another corner I came one the great square, the Signoria, the Loggia, and the Uffizi. There, across the way, I saw “David”, gleaming in white marble. I didn’t’ know, or care, that it was a copy. It was Michelangelo’s first hell to me, and I answered back – openmouthed – and then “Perseus”, Cellini’s boy with the Gorgon’s head, and around the base those lovely little nudes.’

‘The hotel people spoke English, and being the first of our tour to arrive, I got a wonderful room with a little balcony – around the corner of which I could see the Arno and across from which I could look into what surely must have been Lorenzo the Magnificient’s home. Of course, it wasn’t. But it was a palace, and so romantic I couldn’t believe my eyes.’

‘What did I want to see first? What did I want to see alone? Through what glorious door would I make my first real entrance into the Renaissance? Should I go say a prayer in the Duomo or go up and survey the whole city from the Piazzale Michelangelo? I suddenly remembered I had a friend in Florence – Andrea del Sarto – dead a good many years but very much alive to me since he first introduced himself in our minister’s house at home through his “Madonna of the Harpies”. Now, where did she live?… The Uffizi!… There I would start my journey; there I would say hello to an old friend and meet some new ones.’

THE UFFIZI AND FLOODING UP OVER DEL SARTO’S MADONNA
‘Florence!… The Duomo!… The Uffizi!… These words, names, places are exclamation marks in themselves… you have to put dots of wordless wonder after each one. There is noting else to say. The Uffizi!…’

‘Has anyone ever gone through those doors, blasé, disgusted, bored and not been lifted – ‘sent’ – immolated – within a matter of moments? I haven’t been there for twenty seven years, but I’m ‘sent, just remembering it… sent into the greatest world of art, sent back into a civilization of art and excitement that has never had an equal.’

Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo‘First off, in the Uffizi I met a portraitist who let me look, through his eyes, into the eyes of the people of the past: Bronzino. There they are. The Medici, the men, the children, and the beautiful Eleanor of Toledo, in a gown so sumptuous she had herself painted in it – and buried in it. Bronzino is not a deep, psychological portrait painter, but his pictures are true memorials to his sitters. If you want the future to remember what you look like, dig up Bronzino and have him ‘ do’ you!… Hard, crisp, elegant, real – descriptive of his sitters and of his portraits of them.’

‘I was in the flood. I was drowning in the world of art. I was sailing on a shell with Venus. I was a witness to the Holy Family… And then, suddenly, I came upon a room… and there she was. My own personal Madonna.’

Madonna delle Arpie‘I know now that del Sarto was not the greatest painter – far from Browning’s ‘perfect painter’. I know he was soft, overblown… I know that in the lists of greatness, he’s nowhere near the top… but there she was! Oh beautiful, serene, soft-eyed, and glamorous – she’s not the Virgin Mother, not the Woman of Sorrows – she’s the Queen of Goddesses, a woman to worship as a woman. She is beautiful, and she’s in love with all mankind. Especially with me.’

‘Only three things have ever caused me to weep, for beauty’s sake or for art’s sake: the Madonna of Andrea del Sarto, the first time I saw John Gielgud’s play Hamlet in London, and Kirsten Flagstad’s Isolde. I’m always open to let them flood again, but for my tear ducts it’s apparently got to be a special thing to make them flood… and anyway, I hate it. It hurts and makes me embarrassed, even if I’m alone.’

‘And there I was, standing in the Uffizi with a watermelon in my throat and two painful jets of warm salt water spurting out of me eyes. At that moment the whole world could have walked into that gallery, and I wouldn’t have been able to cover up. Then I heard a soft voice, over my shoulder, say: “Come over here, I’ll show you the one that makes me cry.”

‘I blew my nose, blotted my eyes, buried as much of my face as I could in my handkerchief, and blurted out a feeble: “Sorry… something in my eye.” ‘

‘The voice said: “Yes… beauty”.’

‘It belonged to a woman who must have been the mother of my Madonna, a lovely, comfortable, middle-aged Saint Anne. She took me firmly by the arm, led me out of the room and down the hall, and brought me up, still, in front of one of the most beautiful little pictures of all time: the “Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci.’

‘”That’s the one that makes me cry,” she said. I looked at it for a long time, and when I turned around to thank her, she was gone. Secretly, I was glad I didn’t have to thank her, but I always will be grateful for the knowledge that someone else could behave juts as cornily as I did.’

Annunciation (Leonardo)

Leonardo da Vinci – Annunciazione (1472–1475)

THE PONTE VECCHIO AND THE FLORENTINE FOUNTAIN SAGA
‘I had saved a small amount with which to buy Mother and Dad a present, and Florence would get that money, my economic chauvinism stemming from gratitude for its being so beautiful. And I was determined to get it on the Ponte Vecchio. I shopped and thought of silver, of leather, of everything sold on that bridge, but nothing really said ‘buy me’. Back and forth I searched and finally found it… a little bronze fountain figure. Twenty five dollars. He was a cutie, holding a fish out of which the water squirted. There are hundreds of figures like this, but I’d never seen them, and somehow I felt sure that the shopkeeper’s information about its being modern was just to spoof me – that this was an original Donatello-Verrocchio, undiscovered until now by me!’

‘I bought it, lugged it to a packer, sent it home via collect freight and sighed with delight that I had found a treasure in Florence and that my parents would have it forever – in the Middle West of America.’

‘They received it in good order. The collect freight was sixty dollars. Then my father was forced into building a pool for it to fountain into. This cost two hundred and fifty dollars. The entire family spent two years, dragging rocks back from the Ozarks, to make the surrounding rock garden. The final blow came when Mother decided to import three hundred and fifty dollars worth of rare bulbs from Holland to set the whole thing off, and as a background two mature willow trees were brought in, employing six workmen for three days. Then I decided, with Mother’s permission, to grow water lilies. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, was that they must be planted in rich, preferably, cow manure – under the water. This murky operation caused the death of twenty-five high priced, fan-tailed goldfish and yearly saw me up to my armpits in fresh cow dung, having spent the two previous days catching the replaced goldfish, who multiplied over the years to a final count of three hundred and two. Some years later, after the death of my parents, I decided I must keep the Florentine fountain. I dislodged it from its Million Dollar Park to send it to California, where once again a pool had to be built for it and flowers planted, and to date only two sad goldfish have survived to revel in the splashing waters.’

(1) Although his mother put garlic in every dish in the Price household, Vincent found the smell of it in his air-tight third class carriage, which he shared that previous day with four Italians munching on a 50 variety sausage meal, too much to bear. According to his diary, he passed out on the fumes.

Vincent Price on Titian, Tintoretto, cheap hotels and St Mark’s Square in Venice

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which a 48-year-old Price reflects back on his two-day stay in Venice in August, 1928…

ON REACHING VENICE
‘On our itinerary Tour 22 offered no diamond in its glamorous array to touch the hope of Italy. If you’re in love with art, the honeymoon is there. All other art seems distant and a little strange without the eyes of Italy to see it through. You may have scattered affairs with other arts – deep passions, even – but the golden wedding partner is waiting for you at home in Italy.’

‘The moment came. We tool the train to Venice. Continents of natural beauties lay between: the Dolomites, the mountains, lakes, lovely towns. But dreams of Venice blinded me, and I’ll never forget, for all this poetic dreaming, the force with which the squalor of Venice hit me. On a tour like ours – so cheap, so all-inclusive – the economy was hotels. In any language, we found ourselves at the Hotel du Gare… next door to the station. This was an easy way to keep us all together, and to get us off for the next place. For comfort, nothing could compare to them. They had none. The food was miserable, the beds were hard, and the baths so involved and tepid that you almost preferred to stay dirty. But I must say they were good places with which to compare the rest of the surroundings! Almost anything looked glorious, in comparison. All over Europe they were the same – especially in color. Soot. Brown.’

‘Venice, from the station hotel, could be Hoboken with wet pavements. Arriving as we did in the dead of night, one had the suspicion that the advertised beauties of this gem of the Adriatic were elsewhere. Maybe another fourteen-hour train trip away?… Even the Venetian morning light lent little glamour to the scene around the station. You could only hope that such glamorous items such as gondolas did exist, since only some shabby, high-prowed canoes were anchored in front.’

ON ST MARK’S SQUARE
‘Sure enough, Venice did exist. We cruised down the Grand Canal and there was the Rialto, the ‘business end’ of Venus, as some wag had put it. And farther on, the canal became wider and we could see the domes of St Mark’s and the campanile, pointing above everything to that incredible blue sky.’

‘What a wonderful square that is, St Mark’s… and those damned pigeons… and those four glorious horses, prancing on the balcony; then, of course, St Mark’s lion, high on his column, looking back – keeping his eye of the pigeons. The Palace of the Doges and the Bridge of Sighs, and once again the feeling of loss that those glamorous barbarians had moved away, and other times (even if for the better) had forever exiled the pageantry of nobility.’

ON TITIAN AND TINTORETTO
‘There were two painters on the grand scale who knocked one down: Titian and, again, Tintoretto. Guardi and Canaletto certainly tell us the everyday story of their day in Venice, but Titian, in those majestic portraits, and Tintoretto, in his attempt to populate the Doges Palace with the Heavenly Host itself – sacred and profane – they were the genuine echoes of the glorious past. And Tintoretto had another quality that was almost his alone: he could paint flight. He could make a human being soar through the air, light as a bird, light as light.’

ON LEAVING VENICE IN A HURRY
‘Vence was almost too much for a sixteen-year-old, falling in love with art, and the hotel by the station, on the sewer canal, was altogether too much. So I got permission to leave the tour and go to Florence a day ahead of schedule. I took the night train alone, and naturally. I went third class…’

Find out what happened next, tomorrow.

 

Vincent Price on Flanders Field, Nuremberg and Dürer’s Praying Hands

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which the 48-year-old actor looks back at his visit to Belgium and Germany in July 1928…

ON BELGIUM
‘We drove to Belgium in a bus. We saw the trenches and the rows of crosses in Flanders fields, so peaceful now. But I could sense the anguish in the people, still – and two of our Tour 22 requested that we visit at the graveyard of their son – at least, they thought it was the graveyard – I was brought up short by the individuality of war. I had been too young to remember much of World War I, except the flags, food restrictions, saving tin foil, and the gaiety of the armistice. But these two people, standing at the gateway to the graves with heads bowed, their secret silent in themselves, I wouldn’t forget. In Brussels we were burdened with only one work of art: a famous statue of a little boy. Everyone knows the feeling, but why make a monument to it?’

ON COLOGNE
‘Three weeks of intense sightseeing had passed, and the next two countries were considered sport: Germany and Switzerland. While this book is to be mostly a visual experience, I must honestly say that we ate more than we saw in these two countries.’

‘Cologne was impressive, and its cathedral made me realize how minutely we Americans had achieved Gothic opulence in our assimilation of that great architectural tradition. We’ve never been able to make such forests of stone, and the nave in Cologne seems as if it could contain the Woolworth Building. Those opening vaults, reaching the roof and branching away to a solid interlacing of foliage, expand the mind to think of their conception. The fact that this cathedral was in the process of being built for a thousand years (and was only completed in the last century) tempts us to accept its vastness almost as though it had a mind of its own and knew the world would increase in population, if not in faith, and could put its enormity to good use. It stands there, symbolic of the unaccepted open-armedness of faith.’

ON NUREMBERG
‘We didn’t go to Berlin. Very few Americans did then, because the Berliners apparently were having a rather vulgar recovery from the ravages of war. But we did go to Nuremberg, thank God. If I had never seen this city, or could only see it later – pastures of rubble – I would have missed the realization of the German Renaissance and the fact that it’s from that Renaissance that we inherit so many moments of our modern life. Dürer, above all… and Luther, Cranach, our love of etchings, the invention of the printed book… a hundred things. The city itself is pure romance – the walls, towers, lovely churches, houses that have changed nothing but the inhabitants – and Dürer’s house where, as far as I’m concerned, he lives still.

ON DURER AND THE PRAYING HANDS
For me, Dürer is one of the few supreme artists, not only because of his incomparable skill, but because of his aliveness. As Rembrandt was alive to men, Dürer was alive to nature. He is an exciting painter, though not the greatest. He is the master engraver, not the most profound. But when he looks at nature, when he draws from nature, no man extracts the essence more.

You can fall in love with Dürer and his art more readily and more completely than with most, but if the sheer beauty of ‘The Praying Hands’ seems enough to most people, it is when you know what they are praying for that you really understand his genius. These hands are in supplication, that you may see him through to the complete communion he achieved with nature and natural life. See how he parts the grasses to explore the roots, and parts the roots to probe the sod, then discovers in the sod the roots of life itself.