Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Friday, November 9, 2018

Milton Gendel, photographer: He came to Rome and never left

Picnic at Villa Centinale, near Siena.  Milton Gendel photo.  

Milton Gendel in his Washington Square apartment, 1940s
Milton Gendel's Rome experience began with a certain serendipity.  In 1949, at age 31, the New York City native was ready to return to China on a Fulbright scholarship.  Mao's Communist government intervened--the new regime did not welcome young scholars--and Gendel made his way to Rome instead, the beginning of a 60-year relationship with the city.  He never returned to live in the United States.

Within just a few years, Gendel had become a central figure in Rome's art scene.  In the mid-1950s, he helped found the Rome-New York Art Foundation, located on the Tiber Island beneath Gendel's apartment--the same apartment featured in the opening scenes of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960).  Through the foundation, and as the Rome correspondent for ART News, he played a central role in Rome's "la dolce vita" scene between 1958 and 1962, nurturing the careers of some of Italy's most important artists, including Alberto Burri, Toti Scialoja, Tancredi, Ettore Scola, and Mimmo Rotella.  Among those in Gendel's inner circle were Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, and Willem de Kooning.  An early close friend was Rome's architectural theoretician, Bruno Zevi.  Zevi's introduction to Adrian Olivetti led Gendel to employment doing international public relations for the Olivetti firm.

Perhaps best known as a fashion and celebrity photographer, Gendel photographed (among others), Queen Elizabeth II, Salvador Dali, Peggy Guggenheim, and John Paul Getty.  But he was also widely known for his evocative, even poetic (moreso, at least, than the postwar neo-realist aesthetic) photos of Rome, Rome environs, and Italy.

Evelyn Waugh, Lady Diana Cooper, and Georgina Masson.
(Masson's "The Companion Guide to Rome" is our favorite
long-form Rome guidebook.)
Piazza del Popolo, sans obelisk
Church Wedding

The Flying Ephebe, Rome, 1979
In 1972, Gendel moved his studio to an apartment in Palazzo Costaguti in Piazza Mattei.  Then, in 2011, in exchange for transferring his photographic archive to the Primoli Foundation, he gained access to a first floor apartment in Palazzo Primoli, complete with a loggia on the Tevere.  He lived there until his death on October 11, 2018.

Of Rome's many treasures, Gendel was especially fond of the Protestant Cemetery (now called the Non-Catholic Cemetery); the Pyramid of Cestius; the medical museum in the Santo Spirito hospital; and Borromini's church, San Carlo alle Quartro Fontane.

An early Gendel photo, and one of his most famous.  That's Gendel's shadow in the foreground.  
For more on Gendel, see this excellent interview in Vanity Fair from 2011.  Thanks to subscriber Marilyn Hochfield for alerting us to the VF piece.

No comments: