Hills and heavens of Mugello

Art Exhibit showcases international student exchange

Laura Robertson
September 8, 2006

‘Many a dream has been disclosed this summer! Morning conversations are about painting, against the backdrop of Rilke’s letters on Cézanne as lunch is eaten in the shade, sheltered from the burning rays of the sun. The sweltering heat seeping through the walls of the old Tabaccaia is an unwelcome visitor; it’s much better to be outside, painting in the fields, in the woods or by the lake.’


Prof. Adriano Bimbi on the Mugello Project


Take ageless landscape. Mix it with youth and international curiosity. Add study and reflection along with generous doses of courage, colour and vibrant creativity. Ask a 600-year-old artist-monk to take the project under his wing and a creative professor to uphold its excellence. Spark the interest and patronage of educational and governmental institutions, both locally and abroad. And then paint, paint, paint your heart out.

Such was the recipe for success for the young talented artists working alongside Accademia Professor Adriano Bimbi this summer, in an effort to create this year’s much-awaited Mugello exhibition. The program opened five years ago with the theme ‘The Man on the Cross’ (inspired by Donatello’s remarkable wooden crucifix), and has consistently proved to be an inspiring annual event, both culturally and artistically. The 2005 exhibit, built on the theme ‘In the Valley of the Masters’ went on display for the first time in both Italy and New York at Pace University. Gladly, the same is true for this year’s exhibition, product of the first edition of a new exchange program, wherein Pace University students joined Professor Bimbi and his students for one month of Tuscan painting. In October 2006, the University in New York will host Accademia students on the occasion of the overseas portion of the event.

The Tuscan inauguration will take place at 5pm on Sept. 23 at the Convento di Bosco ai Frati, the Castello di Cafaggiolo, and the house of Giotto in Vicchio. It will continue to be on display until Oct. 8, 2006. Then it’s time to cross the ocean for New York’s part of the bar-gain. Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts will host the exhibition; expect inauguration at 5 pm on Oct. 26. The show continues until Nov. 15.

The theme this year? Well, let’s just say that the young artists are shooting for heaven. They’ve paid homage to the hills, the Mugello skies and the artist who believed that a painter’s hand is guided by God.  The exhibit’s muse is no less than Guido di Pietro, known to art-lovers as Fra’ Giovanni da Fiesole, or Beato Angelico.

Hills and Heavens of the Mugello: the Angels of Beato Angelico. ‘That’s the theme this year,’ Professor Bimbi explained. ‘We strongly believe that the subject of the landscape in the Mugello calls for further, in-depth examination; the subtitle is an indication that our approach will be completely free of the “naturalistic” iconography traditional in landscape studies. The purpose of this year’s studies is to elicit and emphasize the sacredness of the landscape in the Mugello through painting.’ Prof. Adriano Bimbi continued, ‘We spent time here with young artists – the angels – who are neither good nor evil, who are free from any mortal sin, who are pure.  We’ve been here with the spirit of Fra Angelico, a monk and an artist, who was born nearby over six centuries ago.  We’ve come, as always, to learn from his supreme lesson: painting is the mirror of a soul in constant search for the holiness of things and of humanity.’

The result of such soul-searching is a two-part exhibition hosted on both sides of the Atlantic. The Italian exhibition includes a series of approximately 90 paintings of various sizes and media (primarily oil, but also acrylic and mixed media); 40 drawings, several of which served as background work for the creation of the paintings, and other independent pieces. The young artists employed various techniques including pastel and watercolour and experimented with both ink and charcoal, many of which were created with natural pigments - clays and natural vegetable pigments.  The New York exhibition will host about 25 paintings and 35 drawings, selected from the total number of works showcased in the Mugello exhibitions.

Many people have made this program possible. The project’s academic partners, the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze and Pace Univer-sity, New York, have teamed up with various municipalities and institutional partners. In addition to the Province of Florence and the Region of Tuscany, sponsors include the municipalities of San Piero a Sieve, Barberino di Mugello, Vicchio, and the Comunità Montana del Mugello. The Tuscan American Association has also been deeply involved in supporting this art-study program and has played an essential role in initiating the inter-cultural aspect of the Mugello project, by organizing the Mugello-Pace exhibit in 2005. It has since been responsible for coordinating the entire US-Italy exchange portion of Bimbi’s project, creating its first complete international exchange in 2006—an event now destined to become an annual occurrence.

‘All in all,’ says President of the Consiglio Regionale della Toscana, Riccardo Nencini, ‘the 2006 Project highlights a successful com-mitment that will indeed help many young people build their own identity. It will also help our population to appreciate the educational values that are born from the history of our territory. Our present reality is deeply-rooted in these values, together with the conflicts and yearnings to which we often find ourselves prey. The ultimate goal is to resolve conflicts by means of peace and art.’

Not a bad goal for an artist. After all, a lot can be achieved by means of a canvas. ‘Peace and art born in the hills of the Mugello’...that’s just another way to say ‘enchantment.’


For more information about The hills and heavens of the Mugello—the Angels of Beato Angelico contact:

Lynn Wiechmann, co-president Tuscan American Associationlynn.wiechmann@iol.it

Elisabetta Boni, Comune di S. Piero a Sieve055-848-7536, urp@comune.san-piero-a-sieve.fi.it



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