Past Event

Inventing the Landscape: Italy and Painters from Thomas Jones to Corot

March 21, 2012
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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Anna Ottani Cavina, the first Compagnia di San Paolo

Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies is pleased to present the inaugural lecture of the Compagnia di San Paolo Italian Academy Distinguished Visiting Professorship. This Visiting Professorship in art history, archaeology, and Italian studies is made possible by multi-year funding from the Compagnia di San Paolo. The first holder of the position is the distinguished art historian Anna Ottani Cavina, who is teaching a weekly graduate course this semester, “Antiquity and Modernity in the Age of Neoclassicism.” 

The public lecture on March 21 springs from the idea that “while modern painting has always aimed to reveal the unseen, some artists were already making important strides in this direction as long ago as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These artists ‘revealed’ the ethereal and immaterial beauty of Venice, the completely ideal botanical scenery of the Roman countryside, and the sublimity of the Alps --the ‘great cathedrals of the earth,’ in Ruskin’s words. A painted landscape is never simply a mirror of the actual terrain; it is inevitably a landscape of ideas.”

Named to the “Légion d’honneur” of the French Republic in 2001, Professor Ottani Cavina is also Director of the Fondazione Federico Zeri, Professor of Art History of the Department of Visual Arts, University of Bologna, and Adjunct Professor of Italian Art History, Johns Hopkins University SAIS Bologna Center, and was director of the exhibition "Louvre Paysages d'Italie. Les peintres du plein air" (at the Grand Palais in Paris, 2001). In 1999 she was the speaker for the Italian Academy Lecture Series; her lectures were then published as Geometries of Silence. 

The Compagnia di San Paolo Professorship will be held by a distinguished Visiting Fellow from Italy in the fields of History of Art, Archaeology, and Italian Literature over the course of three years. The Compagnia di San Paolo is working closely with the Italian Academy to bring to Columbia a series of renowned scholars to promote the knowledge of those areas of Italian learning which have contributed so greatly to the development of culture. 

Founded in 1563, the Compagnia di San Paolo is a private, non-governmental organization that generously and consistently supports education; art and the preservation and development of cultural heritage and activities; scientific, economic and juridical research; health; and assistance to the socially deprived.

Columbia University has already benefited from the Compagnia’s international vision: the School of Journalism has a chair for the “San Paolo Professor of International Journalism” as a result of an agreement developed in the 1990s by the founding director of the Italian Academy. Given its international scope and its long-standing commitment to all aspects of Italian culture and society, Columbia’s Italian Academy has since its birth maintained a dialogue with the Compagnia di San Paolo regarding the maintenance of academic excellence at home and abroad. This new Distinguished Visiting Professorship agreement confirms the foundation’s commitment to Columbia as its American partner in the promulgation of research and teaching done at the highest level. 

The Italian Academy welcomes this opportunity to bring eminent Italian scholars to the Columbia campus to interact with the promising researchers who make up the core of the Academy’s fellowship program, and—in the larger community—to lecture and teach to a broader audience of students and fellow scholars across the University.


"Dalla Venezia del Canaletto al Vesuvio di Andy Warhol, ha spiegato al folto e divertito pubblico americano la professoressa italiana."
From La Stampa coverage of Mar 21, 2012, of Prof. Anna Ottani Cavina's inaugural lecture as Compagnia di San Paolo Italian Academy Distinguished Visiting Professor
Read more: original web page