Well Worn Footsteps

To walk through Italy with your sketchbook is to walk in well worn footsteps of generations travelling artists. Think of all the artists who travelled to Rome: Corot, Goethe, Escher, Fragonard, Claude Lorraine, George Inness, Nicolas Poussin, Frederick Child Hassam, Eugène Delacroix and Thomas Cole, Or, how about Venice? John Singer Sargent, Joseph W. M. Turner, John Ruskin, and William Merritt Chase all created stunning art there. And those are just the tip of the iceberg. The list is endless and as a fellow artist, I find it intimidating. Whether it’s because I’m competitive, or a coward, I’ve never drawn the Colosseum in Rome, despite passing it a number of times. I’m not ready yet to take my turn and exist by comparison to such giants.

The much smaller city of Viterbo, is where I draw. Yes, that’s because my classes are held there each July, but it also feels unexamined and less-appreciated.  I get a first chance to make my impression.  Or, so I thought.

One morning, last July, I came upon a tattered door and staircase which caught my fancy, so I sat down and drew. The steep street had the out-dated name “via Bella Vista” (Beautiful View Street), which wasn’t looking very beautiful anymore. To the contrary. It held all the decay that I love.  My wife, who was out and about that morning, discovered me a little later and snapped a picture of me working.

Weeks later, I came across an old photograph on Ebay from 1925 of the identical place, taken from nearly the identical spot, taken by the German artist, Kurt Hielscher. It looks like this street has been in rough shape for close to a century. And it looks like I’m far from being the frontiersman that I had hoped. 


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