Telemaco Signorini, Among the Olive Trees in Settignano, 1885
In 1956, the art historian and connoisseur Bernard Berenson, concerned with the exclusion of tranquility and contemplation from modern life, envisioned the transformation of his estate in the foothills of Florence into an institution that would support sustained inquiry and “promote aesthetical and humanistic interests,” counterbalancing a world that permitted “no slow maturing of ideas, no perfecting of individual style.” I Tatti’s roots as a center for advanced research date back to this time, when Berenson left his villa and extensive collections of books, photographs, and works of art to his alma mater Harvard.
The villa had been home to Berenson and his wife Mary since 1900; together, the Berensons fashioned I Tatti into a hub of intellectual life in the first half of the twentieth century, hosting both scholars and artists. Gabriele d’Annunzio and Eleonora Duse, Gertrude Stein and Otto Klemperer, Edith Wharton and Leon Bakst, Alberto Moravia and Cole Porter, Iris Origo and Yehudi Menuhin, Renato Guttuso and Vivien Leigh are only a few of the guests who came and stayed at I Tatti, and whose lively interactions laid the groundwork for the institute’s mission and current configuration.
In the spirit of Berenson’s vision of I Tatti as a space for the study of cultural history “founded on direct and loving contact with the work of art,” and in recognition of the indispensable role of contemporary artists in celebrating and challenging our understanding of the past, this year we initiate the I Tatti Artist Residency Program for visual artists, architects, writers, filmmakers, composers, musicians, performers, critics and curators.
Located in the midst of olive groves and vineyards, I Tatti provides an environment conducive to artistic practice, in which residents may work creatively with minimal distraction in a bucolic setting. During each academic term, fall (September – December) and spring (January – June), one or more artists will be invited for an intensive residency as brief as two weeks or as long as two months, granting uninterrupted time to advance or complete work on their own creative projects. The residency is designed to allow artists to pursue new projects and ideas in seclusion, while offering many opportunities for social interaction with I Tatti’s academic community of annual appointees. In addition, I Tatti collaborates on events with local institutions such as the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, which hosts critically acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions, concerts, performances, installations, and interventions, thus providing another forum for exchange.
The residency is aimed at artists who may benefit from being in Italy and connecting with I Tatti’s group of scholars working in the fields of Italian and Global Renaissance as well as its reception by and impact upon modernity. The program covers travel expenses and provides guest artists with housing on I Tatti property, and a studio where necessary and/or access to musical instruments and practice space. All artists have access to the Berenson Library, the Morill Music Library, the archives, as well as Harvard’s extensive online resources. Artists are invited to join the I Tatti Fellows for daily coffee, lunch, and afternoon tea, and are welcome to participate in the center’s academic program. The period of residency runs from September 1 to June 30 each year. Residents are nominated and selected by a rotating jury of international scholars and artists who are familiar with I Tatti and its mission, chaired by I Tatti’s director.