Mr. Blashfield opened his lecture by an account of the characteristics of the city of Florence, in which the Renaissance most flourished. He described the customs and dress of its people and pictured its streets and buildings. He laid special stress on the description of the mural decoration of the city, illustrating freely with the stereopticon.
The physical dificulties of mural decorative painting, he said, make it belong to a wholly separate style of art. Where the painting is first put on canvas, these difficulties are in great part removed. This has caused one of the great differences in the nature of mural painting on canvas and of that in situ. In the former the character of the ceiling paintings is the finer, in the latter that of the panel paintings.
Mr. Blashfield expressed himself as opposed to the notion that we must have a strictly American art. Though an American may in his study abroad take foreign landscapes for his subjects, he is still American in his art. Any national art is the sum total of what the natives may assimilate by their talent. So one will remain an American in his art. No one has any style of art entirely to himself. Raphael and Michael Angelo, though giants of their time, were not alone. They borrowed from the great masters before them. If one is only a link in the chain of artists he is doing well. The experience of one school is the inheritance of another, and no great school has refused to borrow from another. What, then, the Renaissance has taught us, and especially what it has taught us on so difficult a part of art as mural painting, should be adopted and utilized by American artists.